5 Ways to Help Kids Cope With Anxiety Related to the Pandemic

A young boy sits with his back against a wall and cradles his head in both of his hands. He's wearing a blue medical face mask.

Months into the COVID-19 pandemic with no clear end in sight, many of us are grappling with high levels of stress and anxiety. This is a difficult time for people of all ages, including children who might not fully understand what’s happening. With school disrupted and their daily routines altered, they might struggle with adapting to the new normal and worry about the future. For kids with ADHD, autism spectrum disorder, anxiety disorders and other conditions, dealing with the significant changes and uncertainty brought about by the public health crisis can be especially tough.

If the crisis caused by the novel coronavirus has your child worried, this is a great opportunity to teach them how to respond to negative emotions in healthy ways. Here are some expert recommendations for parents and caregivers looking to help kids cope with anxiety related to the pandemic.

1. Establish and maintain a daily routine.

It’s understandable that your child might be shaken if the day-to-day activities they were used to are no longer safe because of the pandemic. Creating a new routine that involves exercise, getting enough sleep and regular meals can help give them a sense of stability and regulate their emotions, according to the article “Anxiety and Coping With the Coronavirus” from the Child Mind Institute.

2. Be an active listener and validate your child’s feelings.

It’s important to let your kids know that you’re there to support them during difficult times like this. Encourage them to talk to you about how they’re feeling and listen carefully and with empathy, as recommended by the article “How to Talk to Your Anxious Child or Teen About Coronavirus” from the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA).

It’s also important to avoid coming off as dismissive. Instead, the ADAA advises parents to validate their children’s emotions and let them know they are not alone in feeling that way. This will help them feel understood and accepted.

3. Don’t discuss negative coronavirus-related news around them.

While it’s important to be informed and children should certainly receive an age-appropriate explanation of the pandemic, it’s best not to routinely discuss topics like death rates, shortages of essential items and other concerning subjects when kids are within earshot, according to the Psychology Today article “Coronavirus and Child Anxiety.” This will only make their worries worse.

4. Teach them to “belly breathe.”

This technique – also called diaphragmatic breathing – involves breathing slowly and deeply so that your belly inflates, as opposed to your chest. You can do this with your kids for five minutes or so each day to help them pause and calm themselves, according to the KidsHealth article “Coronavirus (COVID-19): Calming Anxiety.”

5. Express gratitude.

Focusing on what you’re grateful for can effectively lower your anxiety level, KidsHealth explains. Sit down with your kids and talk about what you’re thankful for and encourage them to consider what they feel fortunate to have, instead of focusing on the negative aspects of life.

Ultimately, it’s completely normal for children to feel anxious about the current situation, but it’s important to take steps to keep their worries in check so they don’t get overwhelmed.

If you’d like to learn more about how to help kids cope with anxiety and other issues, feel free to contact our team of pediatric therapists. We deliver compassionate and comprehensive care to children of all ages to improve their lives one step at a time. For more information about our services, please give us a call at 847-707-6744 or email info@littlestepspt.com.

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