Guest blog post by Stephanie Gutzmer, AuD, C-IAYT
One of the effects of widespread quarantine and stay-at-home orders during this pandemic has been that everyone now understands the harmful toll that isolation can take. Unfortunately, our children experience the effects of isolation, as well. Just like you, they need support and guidance to get through this challenging time. So keep reading to learn how to help your child with anxiety when they’re feeling socially isolated.
The Oxygen Mask Complex
COVID-19 turned everyone’s world upside down. Discussions and information about the virus seem to permeate into every aspect of our lives. While orders to stay home are gradually expiring, social distancing rules continue to affect plans and result in cancelled events. We’re all feeling stressed and on edge.
Children, especially younger ones, take emotional cues from those around them. And if you’re feeling anxious, you can bet your children are feeling the same. But before you can even begin to help your child with their anxiety, you need to help yourself.
It’s similar to when an airplane is in an emergency: you should put your oxygen mask on before helping your child or others. Trying to help someone with anxiety while you yourself are anxious is not going to benefit either of you.
This means you must take the time to address and manage your own anxiety in order to help your child with theirs. Actions speak louder than words. Your children will do as you do, not what you tell them.
It’s an unfortunate reality, but one person’s anxiety can negatively affect the wider family unit. And children don’t fully understand what is happening or why a parent is acting the way he or she is. Children in these situations tend to blame themselves or grow up feeling even more lonely and isolated.
However difficult this uncertain time may be for you and your children, there are things you all can do together to mitigate the stress and anxiety.
9 Ways to Help Your Child [and you!] with Anxiety
1) Recognize we are all struggling at this time and may need space to have our emotions.
The concerns of children and adults often feel worlds apart, but during shelter in place mandates, the experience is similar:
- Both children and adults mourn the loss of social connection.
- We are all stressed by the forced change of routine, shifting virtually overnight to an online world for school or work.
- Both children and adults struggle to adjust to survive this new reality, and it may not be pretty at times.
- And similarly, this increased stress can trigger or worsen anxiety, depression, panic attacks, or PTSD
2) Even though we are all mandated to social distance, it does not mean we cannot find ways to connect.
Humans are hardwired to be social. There’s no doubt about it – social distancing and isolation create stress. It is worsened by losing support systems we have relied upon. Technology and digital platforms can offer ways to help you remain safe and physically distant, but still socially connected.
3) But be aware of how increased screen time may be affecting you or your children.
Video platforms, like Zoom or Face-Time, can help you feel connected as you reach out to others. However, social media like Facebook, Twitter, or news streams can sometimes make you feel more disconnected. Set rules for yourself and your family on how often and how long everyone uses their devices.
Keep Reading: How to Teach Your Child to Cope with Anxiety
4) Take time each day to communicate with your children about feelings and concerns – both theirs and yours.
5) Maintain some form of a routine during the day to keep a sense of normalcy. However, avoid being too rigid on daily expectations.
Again, this is a difficult time, and we all need space to feel these negative emotions. Too much structure and too high an expectation for the day can quickly increase stress levels and worsen anxiety.
6) Take this time to determine what matters most.
Let go of what you can’t control and evaluate your life before the pandemic. What served you, what didn’t? Instead of going right back to “normal” when we can, bring the changes you what in life with you and create a new dynamic that serves you better. What matters most? Who matters most? What changes in life can you create that will help you align with this?
Keep Reading: 5 Somatic Experiencing Exercises to Keep Grounded
7) Spend family time exercising or going for a walk outside.
8) Adopt a self-care routine that actually makes you feel good.
Self-care can be an amazing and refreshing, much-needed pick-me-up if it doesn’t stress you out further. There is no right or wrong way to self-care if it’s doing you a benefit in the end. Self-care doesn’t have to be an activity you do or participate in but can be as simple as how you approach life.
9) Work towards becoming more comfortable without total control.
Having control may feel reassuring, but it’s often a false sense of security. Trying to control life is not sustainable; it takes a mental and emotional toll, only adding to overall stress. The ideal route is somewhere in the middle, being prepared but recognizing you can’t control everything.
Support Maybe Needed to Help Your Child with Anxiety
Even though we may feel isolated, it doesn’t mean you or your child have to do this alone. Reaching out for support and guidance can help your child find stability in such an uncertain time. Talk to one of our qualified therapists today. If you are in the Chicagoland area, we have offices in Jefferson Park, Glen Ellyn, and Sycamore, Illinois. Contact us today at (630) 423-5935.
Stephanie Gutzmer, AuD, C-IAYT
Stephanie is a certified yoga therapist and life coach, specializing in health and mindfulness coaching, and holds a doctorate in audiology, specializing in tinnitus. She collaborates with her clients to develop an individualized plan of specific goals and provides guidance to overcome practical and emotional barriers in reaching them. Her unique background and training allows her to support her clients in ways that make positive physical, mental health and well-being change in their lives.