During this Pandemic many people are experiencing stress and feelings of anxiety. Uncertainty is all around us, and each person’s tolerance for it is different.
Here are some ways to support your children with feelings of increased stress and anxiety.
Take time to practice positive wellbeing strategies that benefit you and your family:
These strategies are things you intentionally do to help you feel well and happy. These can look different for each person and each family. However, we know that well being is improved by movement, taking time to connect with each other, focusing on gratitude and giving back to our community in some way.
Help children identify and actively deal with their emotions:
Children, even teens, don’t always know what they are feeling or the reason behind their feelings. You may notice the feelings more in their behavior or in the tone of their voice. Minimizing these feelings and telling our children to be ‘brave’, or ‘don’t worry’, results in suppressing these emotions: further increasing stress and anxiety and vulnerability to depression. Instead, help them connect their behaviors and emotions by exploring what they might mean. eg. “I notice your tummy hurts when you have to talk on-line, you seem worried about it...” or “ what’s up, how are you feeling?”
Set clear expectations and encourage children to face their fears:
It can be very tempting as parents to try to remove stressors that seem to be causing our children’s anxiety or to lower our expectations. Anxious feelings can lead to avoidance which may decrease the feeling of anxiety in the short term but lead to more difficulties and increased anxiety over time. The best way to help children with anxious feelings is to help them, step by step, to learn to tolerate their anxiety and function as well as they can, even when they’re anxious.
Provide routines to increase a sense of predictability:
Creating routines can increase your child’s feeling of safety and reduce their overall anxiety. Setting schedules, where possible, for eating, school work, self-care and family activities can be helpful. Engaging your children in creating these schedules and posting them can give them a greater sense of control. It often takes time to establish and maintain a routine but it can reduce overall stress and increase focus and wellbeing.
If you’re concerned about your child’s mental health, or have questions about how to talk to your child about difficult topics, visit bit.ly/PDSBStudentMHandWB for further information and links to school and community resources. The PDSB Mental Health Resource Team is made up of registered psychologists and social workers. Follow them on Twitter @MHRTPeel to join the #WELLinPEEL conversation.
Visit School Mental Health Ontario to find strategies for identifying emotions and practices for reducing stress that you can try with your family. See https://www.anxietycanada.com/ to learn more about anxiety