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This content is taken from the UEA (University of East Anglia)'s online course, Anxiety in Children and Young People during COVID-19. Join the course to learn more.
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Approaching fears

During times of stress and crisis, it is common for children to seek more attachment and be more demanding of parents.

Discuss the COVID-19 with your children in an honest and age-appropriate manner. If your children have concerns, addressing those together may ease their anxiety.

Listen to your child/teen’s feelings, worries, fears and questions about coronavirus. Children may receive their news about coronavirus from school, internet, TV, home or elsewhere. They may worry that the worst may happen to them and/or their friends and loved ones. Ask questions in a non-judgmental and empathetic manner. Show your child/teen that you are present and interested in hearing their thoughts and feelings. This will make it easier for your child/teen to approach you with their thoughts and feelings in future as well.

Children or teens, who are feeling anxious or suffering from anxiety disorders, may repeatedly ask their parents for words or gestures of reassurance. Excessive reassurance may be in the form of repeated requests for gestures of comfort, repeated questions to verify safety of self and others, repeated requests for checking or repeating or asking you to repeat facts of the situation to reassure self, etcetera. While you may have an urge to provide such reassurance and such reassurance may give you the impression that it is helping at that moment, excessive reassurance actually serves to reinforce and increase anxiety in the long- term.

Therefore, it is advisable to limit excessive reassurance. Also, aim to provide a high ratio of positive to constructive feedback for your child/teen when they engage in appropriate behaviour. Parents who are suffering from anxiety disorders, may find it particularly challenging to limit such reassurance and may benefit from professional help for themselves to address these challenges.

Encourage your child to practice sitting with and experiencing the anxiety, rather than doing something to relieve it or distract from it. Sitting with the anxiety may be challenging for your child/teen at first (depending on the severity of anxiety), however, with practice, it will help your child/teen know that even though sitting with anxiety can be challenging and unpleasant especially in the beginning, it is doable, that this is a wave they can ride, and that these are feelings that will pass and these do not define them or their life. Help your child notice and verbalize the experience of anxiety rather than avoiding it. Putting anxiety related feelings in words facilitates faster and optimal processing of those emotions and experiences.

Normalizing the experience of anxiety as one that many people around the world feel, can also be helpful.

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This article is from the free online course:

Anxiety in Children and Young People during COVID-19

UEA (University of East Anglia)