How to Manage Your Own Anxiety And How to Talk To Your Kids About The Corona Virus
Yesterday it came – my daughter’s college campus has officially closed down as a result of COVID-19 (right now for 3 weeks, then who knows), adding to the list of universities across the country. I knew it was only a matter of time and was just waiting for the call.
First thing tomorrow my husband leaves to drive over 20 hours to bring her home. From where I sit, this is only a mild inconvenience (selfishly, I’m thrilled she’s coming home, her not so much) compared with what so many are going through.
To say anxiety is running high is an understatement. And many of our kids are feeling it too.
As a mom, you may be feeling many emotions – fear, worry, anger, sadness, feelings of powerlessness or a lack of control.
You may feel frustrated that the kids are going to be home for God knows how long, maybe you’re scared because you have a child that has a compromised immune system (I just hung up with a friend whose child has health issues and is at a higher risk, she is terrified), maybe you have an elderly parent who you’re worried about, or even know someone who has been exposed.
It’s understandable that we would feel anxious – some of us more than others depending on our areas of vulnerability, circumstances or personalities.
So what do we do when it comes to managing our own anxiety and talking to our kids about COVID-19?
Our kids react, in part, on how they see their, peers and others around them responding. And, there is no one that has a greater influence than parents (even if you have a teenager who acts to the contrary).
No matter where you or your kids land on the anxiety spectrum there are proactive steps you can take, not only to manage anxiety during this crisis but also to create connection between you and your kids.
Here are some proactive steps you can take:
Talk about your feelings.
One of the ways that we attempt to cope will our anxiety is to push the anxiety away. We white-knuckle it, stuff and try to shut our emotions down. When our kids express uncomfortable emotions we may be tempted to do the same thing. The problem with this strategy is it doesn’t usually work very well and actually can make the anxiety worse.
Instead, allow feelings to be expressed.
It’s OK to feel whatever your feeling. Talking about our feelings helps to lessen the intensity and helps us to work through them.
Be present and available. Focus on listening.
What is your child feeling? What are they worried about?
Don’t feel the need to rush in and make them feel better. Focus on hearing what they have to say. Validating whatever their feeling will help them to cope with their emotions more than anything else you can do. And don’t make empty promises that you can’t guarantee.
Reassure them that you are there for them to listen and you will work together to cope with whatever happens.
Be sensitive to how your kids react to stress.
Depending on your kid’s age, don’t be surprised if they act out in a variety of ways.
Some preteens and teenagers may appear moodier than usual or argue or fight more with you or their siblings. They may be overwhelmed by their emotions and not want to talk about them.
If you notice any changes in behavior invite them to talk about what is going on with them, “I’m noticing that you seem angry. I’m wondering what might be going on that is causing you to feel this way. Is there anything you want to talk about?”
Don’t try to “make” them talk. Noticing how they’re acting and feeling and inviting them to talk about it without pressuring them can go a long way to them opening up.
Focus on the facts.
Sometimes the best we can do to cope and take care of ourselves and our kids is is to focus on the facts and the ways we can be proactive.
It’s important to not pass on incorrect information that only adds to the anxiety or undermines the importance of taking responsible precautions.
But there is so much information out there – some reliable and some sensational.
What sources can we trust?
Here are a few reliable sources:
Focus on what you can control
In times of uncertainty, when many variables are out of our control, one thing we can do is focus on those things that we can control.
The truth is, we have limited control with our tweens’ and teens’ social media/screens and what they’re watching and where they’re getting their information.
What we CAN do is invite our kids into a conversation about what they know about the Covid-19.
You might ask them…
“What are you hearing about the Corona Virus?”
“What do they think about it? Does it worry you? Do you have questions or concerns?”
“What do your friends think about it? Are they nervous about it?”
While we might not be able to control where they’re getting all of their information, we can watch news coverage together and use it as an opportunity to discuss any concerns they may have and how you can be proactive.
We can channel our concerns into good hygiene to prevent catching the virus and remind our kids AGAIN and AGAIN to wash their hands.
And even though they may roll their eyes, we can hand them some extra Vitamin C or gummy vitamins and disinfectant wipes when they leave the house.
Take advantage of this time.
Perhaps, one of the best things we can do is use this extra time at home to build connection and have fun with our kids.
Because this is a time when we need one another. When our kids are faced with times of uncertainty, they need to be certain of one thing – that they are safe and loved by us.
Make time to be present, allow your kids to relax because life can be stressful. Show acts of kindness to your kids and encourage them to do the same. Talk about how it’s times like these that help us to reflect on what is truly important. This is also a time when people can be more isolated due to health concerns. If you have a family member who falls in that category ask your kids how you might reach out through Facetime or text to let them know you’re thinking about them. You may want to cook a meal as a family, play board or card games, turn up the music and have a dance contest, or take turns giving shoulder rubs.
Whatever you do focus on the good stuff and being grateful. Because that is one thing in all the craziness, panic and unknowns that we can do. And maybe this will be the silver lining in it all.