Got anxiety? If you have a child who is struggling right now, there are things you can do. Here are some ways we can all help kids handle uncertain times.
We are living in historically important times right now. Years from now, people will look back at 2020 and will talk about how we handled everything we’re facing and will judge us by the way we respond. Life is dramatically different right now and adults and children alike are experiencing higher levels of anxiety as we approach the unknown.
Our kids are looking to us to see how they should respond to everything that’s going on around them. Our higher levels of stress are causing them to feel anxious as well. And many of us are having to shelter in place which can increase everyone’s level of tension as well.
So, what are we to do? How can we help our kids handle these uncertain times with more peace and less anxiety?
Here are 6 Ways to Help Kids Handle Uncertain Times:
1 – Talk about What’s Happening
One of the most important things we should be doing is talking to our kids about what’s happening. The amount of information we share with them will differ depending on the ages of our kiddos. But if your kids have any access to the news or the internet, I can guarantee they are hearing all about what’s happening all around us. Encourage them to ask questions. Share your own concerns with them.
Be sure to remind them that we aren’t alone in this and that our hope comes from our knowledge that God has this in control and that nothing will happen without him allowing it. That doesn’t mean that we will be free from experiencing tragedy in our lives. But if we are allowed to go through something hard we know that we aren’t going through it alone.
If you have young kids who don’t understand about germs and viruses, here’s a resource that can help.
What are Germs (Ages 2+) – What are germs? Where do they live and how do they spread? It’s time to zoom in for a closer look… This informational book for very young children has amusing and friendly illustrations, and children will love peeking under the flaps to find out all about germs and hygiene.
2 – Give Them Ways to Work Through Their Feelings
We’re all experiencing a wide range of emotions right now, from fear to uncertainty, to anger. And kids and animals alike can sense when we’re more keyed up than usual. There’s so much that is unknown right now that sometimes it’s hard to remain optimistic. As parents, sometimes it’s hard for us to know how to help our kids voice their concerns and work through them in a way that’s therapeutic.
Deep breathing is one technique we can teach to our kiddos. I made a video about how to do this deep breathing a while back.
Reframing thoughts is another technique for helping to work through anxiety. Have your child verbalize something they’re concerned about and then help them to restate that thought in a way that is more realistic. For example, if your child is concerned about our current health concern and his thought is, “If I catch this virus, I will die” you can help him to see that the chances of that happening are almost nonexistent. Help them to see that a far more realistic thought is, “If I catch this virus, I might get sick but I should recover just fine.”
Another helpful exercise is to encourage our kids to write out their thoughts and feelings in a journal. There are lots of wonderful journals that will help guide our kids through tough situations so that they can come out on the other side in a much healthier place. Here are some options for you to consider.
Be Brave (Ages 8+) – These activities and fun exercises will help you feel braver, understand your feelings, make choices about how to react, talk to others about your worries (if you want to), and grow in courage, confidence, and positivity.
No Worries (Ages 8+) – The supportive activities in this book are designed to tackle child anxiety and stress, help the child to work out how and why they feel worried, encourage them to talk to others about their worries (if they want to), and feel calmer.
Hello, Happy (Ages 8+) – The age-appropriate drawing and writing exercises in this book will help the child to define and understand their feelings, deal with emotions, and discover paths to happiness, peace, and positivity.
Be the Change, Make it Happen – (Ages 7+) – Big and small ways kids can change the world. You can be a hero if you want. Yes, YOU. You might not know it, but you have a lot of power: little actions that you make can have big consequences. This book details all the little and large ways anyone can help make a difference, in their neighborhood, in their country, in the world! And what a great time for kids to come up with ways to help people!
3 – Provide Positive Distractions
With so much scary stuff happening around us, it’s important than we are intentional about giving our kids positive distractions to take their minds off of all of these health concerns. This is a great time to go on a hike together, play in the back yard, have a movie night, play games, read books together, etc. We’re all going to have memories of these days and weeks where we’re spending more time together so let’s make sure as many of these memories as possible are positive.
4 – Work on our Own Mental Health
It’s easy to get wrapped up in taking care of our families during uncertain times but we need to make sure we are also thinking about our own mental and emotional health. Self-care is important and it’s usually the first thing we ignore when we need it the most. If you think you don’t have time to recharge, try waking up and having time alone before your kids get up, giving your kids some quiet time in their rooms, or enlisting your spouse to watch the kiddos so that you can have some alone time.
5 – Get Outside if at All Possible
Fresh air and sunshine are healing! If it’s at all possible, try to spend some time outside. Let your kids run in a wide-open field, take a walk in the woods, walk on the beach… even just sitting the backyard in a lawn chair while watching your kids play is restful. Even better, get in some exercise and run around in the back yard with your kiddos.
If your children are old enough, try to go for a walk on your own. Even if you’re walking laps around your house. We live in the country are we have a long driveway so I enjoy walking up and down that while talking to God. It is an amazing way for me to get my prayer time while exercising.
6 – Stay Active
I’ve seen lots of MEMEs going around about how important it is for us to save lives by sitting on our couches and watching TV. And that is certainly something we can do. But too much time in front of the TV isn’t great for our minds or our bodies. Extra time at home right now is a great opportunity for us to tackle some of those projects at home that we never seem to have the time to do. And the whole family can be involved together.
Take advantage of some of the amazing free classes people are offering right now. Get the kids doing chores. Teach them life skills like cooking and cleaning. Try to keep it fun and do things together so that it’s more enjoyable for everyone. Staying active, checking things off your list, exercising, learning a new skill, etc will help you to feel good as you’re accomplishing more during your day.
We are living in uncertain times and we are constantly being bombarded with information that can cause our kids to feel anxious. But if we take some of the above action steps we will be teaching our kids valuable skills that they can take with them and use throughout their lives. Let’s be intentional about helping our families to feel less anxious and to take advantage of this extra time that we’ve been given. With the right attitude, It really can be a gift.
How are you doing during the current health crisis? How are your kids? How are you trying to help your kiddos work through their anxiety? Please leave a comment below!