Children's Mental Health week: 5 tips for managing your child's anxiety
As we hurtle into February and the COVID-19 crisis still rages on, it's fair to say that a lot of people right now are having a angst-ridden time of it. The uncertainty and lack of concrete info is starting to take its toll on us grownup folk, and despite making time for a bit of mindfulness and keeping on top of our anxiety as best we can, it's still a time of great worry. And you know who else is worried, even if they don't really understand why? Our kids. They're missing their playdates, school friends, holidays, grandparents and routine, and while they may have some grasp about the coronavirus debacle, chances are they're also feeling concerned and troubled about what is happening in these weird and scary times. So, what with it being Children's Mental Healh Week right now, we've come up with a few ways you can try and manage your child's anxiety...
1. Plan activities together
Getting to grips with life in yet another lockdown is testing to say the least, and with this homeschooling lark being a thing again, it's important to plan not only the homeschool schedule but plenty of other fun activities together: ones that will give the kiddos an element of control and a say in their routine: something that may help ease their minds. Likewise, without their usual after school activities and play dates happening, why not draw up a cool schedule of activities together to include the odd cooking lesson, awesome board game sessions, rambles outside, scavenger hunts (we have a couple of free printables for that) and plenty of family movie nights? Do make sure that your schedules are achievable so that there are no tantrums if expectations - adults and children alike - are not met!
2. Talk about feelings and emotions
We've all seen Inside Out, and we know that everyone is going through a whole range of emotions at whiplash speed at the mo, kids included. Pencil in some peaceful, quality time together every week or even every few days to check in with one another about thoughts and feelings. Reassure the offspring that they can speak to you any time (preferably not while you're on the loo though!), and that if their feelings are too big for them to deal with, they should share them with you.
3. Have some daily 'worry time'
Kids need to know that it's okay to be worried, and that we're there to help those worries become less scary. Set aside time each day (wayyy before bedtime!) and encourage your child to write or draw about their worries. Chat with them and problem solve together, and of course pile on the reassurances. The more hugs the better: they're therapeutic for everyone!
4. Chat about the good stuff
Before bed, spend a wee while identifying with your kiddo at least three good things that might have happened that day. It could be something as simple as baking a cake together, going for a walk or finishing a book that they enjoyed: it all counts. Get your little one (or medium/big one) to draw a picture or write down the stuff that makes them smile, and hopefully they'll go to sleep thinkinghappy thoughts.
5. Focus on the family's wellbeing together
Being as healthy as you can be right now will have a knock on effect on mental health for sure, and the kids will love taking some responsibility for their own wellbeing. Plan and cook healthy meals together, make sure you get outside for a walk/cycle/scooter (let them choose) every day, and encourage them to get enough sleep.
And parents, if YOU are struggling, then talking about your worries will definitely help. It's okay not to be okay, and if you don't have friends or family that you feel you can speak to, then do try one of these NHS-recommended helplines:
Anxiety UK: 03444 775 774 (Monday to Friday, 9.30am to 10pm; Saturday to Sunday, 10am to 8pm); www.anxietyuk.org.uk
Bipolar UK: 07591 375544 (leave a voicemail message and they will call back asap); www.bipolaruk.org.uk
Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM),0800 585858 (for men aged 15 to 35, open daily 5pm until midnight); www.thecalmzone.net
Cruse Bereavement Care: 0808 808 1677 (Monday to Friday, 9am until 5pm); www.cruse.org.uk
Family Lives: 0808 800 2222 (Monday to Friday, 9am until 9pm, Saturday and Sunday, 10am until 3pm for advice on all aspects of parenting); www.familylives.org.uk
Mind: 0300 1233393 (Monday to Friday, 9am until 6pm); www.mind.org.uk
No Panic: 0844 967 4848 (daily 10am until 10pm); www.nopanic.org.uk
Papyrus: 0800 068 4141 (Monday to Friday, 10am to 10pm, and 2pm to 10pm on weekends and bank holidays for young people with suicidal thoughts); www.papyrus-uk.org
Refuge: 0808 2000 247 (24 hours for advice on dealing with domestic abuse); www.refuge.org.uk
Samaritans: 116 123 (24 hours); www.samaritans.org.uk
The Silver Line: 0800 470 8090 (24 hours a day for older people); www.thesilverline.org.uk
Victim Support: 0808 168 9111 (24 hours); www.victimsupport.org
You've got this, parents. Big love to you all.
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