By Kymberley Fearn, Clinical Hypnotherapist - Hypnotherapy by Kym
Reducing Anxiety In Children During Lockdown.
For children, lockdown is one big holiday.
Children are finding this easy.
If you think you are finding this hard, for a child it is harder. I have three children ranging in age from 9 to 14. For them it was a novelty at first but now we are a month in the novelty has worn off and reality has set in. They don’t know when they will be able to play with their friends again. They are missing their activities and believe it or not they are missing school. Have you ever said “your school years are your best – make the most of them”? Here they are missing months of school.
Big life changes disrupt emotional wellbeing and increase anxiety.
Children of all ages struggle with their emotions at times. They must learn to identify and control them, and you can help them learn how. The single biggest game changer with emotion is explaining to a child that the way they react to a situation changes the outcome. Just by changing their reaction to an event, they will change the outcome, hopefully to one they want. Stop the situation, ask them what would have been a better reaction. This diffuses a situation, makes them think and they learn from it.
Often (although not always) as a hypnotherapist when I see an anxious child, I see an anxious parent. I must work with the whole family not just the anxious child. Changing the parent’s reaction to a situation will also change the outcome. So during this time, pick the battles that matter.
I honestly thought that my teenager would find this this easy. He is used to self-isolating in his room and only communicating with friends through electronic devices, right?
That is the child I see at home. I don’t see the child laughing with his mates, socialising in the fresh air at break. Enjoying the football at the weekend. Teenagers are more sociable than we think.
You may be experiencing defiance, disrespect, refusal, complaining, swearing or even physical anger. Maybe this is leading to excessive screen time or arguments. But what is going on below the surface? They are bored, helpless, fearful and believe it or not - disconnected!
They will be worried about so many things and may feel unable to talk to you as they would with their friends. Teenagers struggle with emotions at the best of times, which is often where anger comes in. Anger often attracts anger and a power struggle ensues. Getting the balance right with teenagers is so important. Involve them in everything but expect them to join in with nothing. This way you don’t get angry because they do not do what you expect. In fact, when they choose to join in, it will be a joy. You will all enjoy it as it will not be forced interaction. When you change the way, you interact with your teenager, the way they interact with you changes. You start to get under the surface, and they will open up to you. When they do - listen!
Our primary children understand both enough and not enough at the same time. This can make lockdown an extremely anxious time for them.
They know why we are at home.
They have drawn, coloured and clapped.
They have heard our conversations and adult news reports.
The most important thing you can do for this age group is make sure that they understand what is going on in an age-appropriate manner. Answer their questions when they come up and answer them truthfully. If they hear one thing when you are talking to them and another when you think they are not listening, they will become anxious and confused.
When it comes to schoolwork, we have all dug ourselves a big hole. How many of us have 'helped' them with homework so they have the best project! They are used to us 'doing' their work with them. This will cause confusion as now you are trying to get them to work independently like they would at school. They will get anxious because the shift in learning has changed.
You are not teaching them. This is revision of things they have already learnt. Remind them of this. Break things down for them and don’t think you have to get it all done. If you must achieve a task, set a goal, e.g. 'When you have done this you can go on the trampoline or we can go out for a walk'. The best anxiety medications are fresh air and exercise. Most importantly do not compare yourself, or your child, to others that you see on social media.
Pre-schoolers are probably the most difficult group. This is because they don’t understand. If they normally go to a setting outside of the home, then life has changed. They don’t know why. Suddenly, they are home all the time, they can’t go to a park or play with other children. They are home all the time and so are you. When you can, play with them, hug them, watch TV or read with them. Make them feel loved and secure, that is your role as a parent and will reduce anxiety now. Your pre-schooler may display more anxiety around the time of going back to their external settings as they will have got used to a new normal.
For all age groups to reduce anxiety and worry cut them some slack!
Lower your expectations.
This is not normal!
This is not a holiday!
This is not school!
This is your family adjusting to a new normal.
Another really important point is not to have adult conversations in front of children even if you think they are not listening. Children pick up on your anxieties. Think of the language that you use. “we have no money right now” or “No we cannot see grandma at the moment as she is at risk”. Change these to positive explanations if you have to, but where possible, don’t let your worries be their worries. Little worries in children can grow to big anxieties.
There are some great anxiety-reducing techniques that I teach but they take time to learn. Right now, play, laughter, love, fresh air and understanding are the best treatments for anyone.