We recognise that any child may feel highly anxious at this time, but for a child who is already dealing with grief this may feel like a huge hurdle to overcome. We therefore want to look at a few ways of helping to alleviate some of their anxieties.
You may have noticed some changes in your child, either physical or emotional, for example they may have become clingier, or even more withdrawn. They may be complaining of a tummy ache or headache or just seem a little out of character. These are all really normal reactions for when a child feels anxious, and with all the current changes at the moment we would expect to see some levels of anxiety across families.
Things you can do to help
Keep children up to date with what’s happening, using clear and honest communication.
Why? We know that children can have vivid imaginations, without any information they can quickly become scared and anxious. If they feel you are hiding information from them they will quickly lose trust in you.
Use age appropriate language.
A younger child will require less factual information but still need a clear explanation to why life has changed so abruptly. For example, “There is a bad germ that is making people very sick, we are going to stay home, and wash our hands regularly to help keep us safe”.
You can also read The Stay Home Superheroes, a free online e-book to help explain the current situation to primary school-age children.
For an older child they will require more facts, explain to them there is a lot of misleading information at the moment. Try exploring information together, looking at appropriate websites and avoiding media hype.
Gov.uk will give you the most up to date and reliable information.
Remember it’s OK to tell a child you don’t have the answers, they are looking at you for security, so be honest and say “I don’t have that answer, but when I find out I will let you know”. Children just need reassurance that things will be ok, reassure them that as a family you are doing everything you can to keep them safe.
Routines are really helpful for children who are experiencing anxiety, try to implement a plan of the day for your child. Helping them to see what the plan of the day is can make a big difference.
Bedtimes are important as it’s a key time to check in with how they are feeling. And sleep is crucial in coping with these new feelings and emotions, always encourage a good night’s sleep. Anxiety can be exhausting so we need to incorporate some rest time in their daily routines.
Encourage them to reach out to friends and family, there are many safe ways of doing this. Telephone, video call or texts. It’s important for children to still feel part of a bigger network, and to speak to a friend or grandparent can really lift their spirits.
Regular exercise can help bring anxiety levels down, this can feel difficult whilst stuck at home, try being creative and encourage new forms of exercise. There are some great home exercise videos for children on YouTube, or just a run around the back garden with a football etc.
We hope you’ve found this advice useful, and to find out more about our Children’s Service here at the Hospice, please click here.