Children’s Anxiety & Covid-19!
A low grade fever used to be a minor cause for concern. A sneeze used to warrant a simple “bless you.” A cough used to be followed by a short “excuse me.” Today, low grade fever, sneezing, and coughing are major causes of concern. It’s no wonder then that people are developing outsized anxieties around regular, everyday things.
Many parents have approached me to discuss what to do with their anxious children now that many of their “irrational” fears have entered the realm of the rational. For instance, two parents have told me that their children do not want to leave the house until there is a vaccine. They fear that they will get infected and infect others. So, what do you do when your children have anxiety about leaving the house during a prolonged pandemic?
- Don’t hide away. It’s very tempting to say, “You know, you are right. We could get sick and therefore we should all stay home.” It’s tempting but it is impractical and ultimately damaging to the child.
- Don’t minimize his fears. Don’t tell your child, “You are going to be just fine! Don’t worry about it.” While of course we all hope this is true and it likely will be true, there are very real fears here that should not be ignored.
- Share your research. Let your child know that you are doing your due diligence – researching the rules, choosing the safest locations, and preparing yourself and your family in advance. If your child understands that you’ve put thought into this and that you are not just winging it, some of his anxiety may ease.
- Expose slowly. If your child is fearful of leaving the house, it would not be helpful to take him to a crowded event the first day out. Instead, think of something very small. Suggest he sit in the backyard for 1 minute, walk the family dog to the sidewalk and back, or even stand by the open window for a few minutes. Then, add a bit to the exposure: sit in the backyard for 5 minutes, walk the family dog 4 houses down, stand outside of the front door for 2 minutes. These exposures will help him understand that he faced his anxiety and nothing terrible occurred.
It’s also important to remember that we are all encountering this changing world for the first time — as children or adults! We have to have patience with ourselves and with others since this is all about trial and error.