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Course spotlight: Anxiety in Children and Young People During COVID-19

The impact of coronavirus can be seen in every facet of our society. One of the key challenges of these unprecedented times is the heightened risk of anxiety, especially in younger people. A recent course, Anxiety in Children and Young People During COVID-19 by the University of East Anglia, was designed rapidly to support those currently caring for young people. We spoke to lead educator, Dr Paul Linsley about his experience with the course.

Can you tell us a bit about this course, who it’s aimed at and what it aims to achieve?

The course Anxiety in Children and Young People During COVID-19 sort to provide advice and support for parents, teachers, supporters and guardians of children suffering with anxiety during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

What has been your experience of running this course online?

Overwhelming. I was surprised at the number of people accessing the course (over 17,000 at the time of writing) and the willingness of people to support one another, share resources and talk of their experiences of coping during this most difficult of times through social learning. It really brought the course to life and enhanced people’s learning experience manyfold.

The course bears similarities to another UEA course, Youth Mental Health: Helping Young People with Anxiety, which has been running on FutureLearn for a few years. How did your team work to take what you’d learned from this previous course and adapt content for the context of COVID-19.

Whilst the Youth Mental Health: Helping Young People with Anxiety provides a good foundation and insight into the topic, we quickly acknowledged the need to review the material in light of new and emerging evidence as a result of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Whilst a degree of anxiety is normal, the circumstances in which we currently find ourselves aren’t. The level and complexity of anxiety occurring in young people currently required us to pivot the material with our new understanding. Remember – this situation is unprecedented; it is okay to not be okay.

This course tackles a subject that is very pertinent for many in the current climate, did this affect how you designed and built content for the course?

The pandemic has meant that we’re starting to look at anxiety and how young people cope through a new lens. We know parents, carers and teachers are particularly short on time in the current climate, and as such the course is designed to really focus on the things that people found useful and practical in these times based on the best and emerging evidence available. 

What have been some of your key learnings from running this course?

The most important thing for you to remember, is that it is normal to feel a whole range of emotions during these extraordinary times. A certain level of anxiety is normal. Feeling stressed and anxious is not a sign of you not coping. As a parent you do not need to have all the solutions all the time. You need to focus on what’s working and reinforce it with your child. Remember that you are in it together, you should work with your child to find solutions, whilst at the same time remembering to look after your own health and wellbeing.

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