Last updated on Jun 23rd, 2021 at 11:06 am
The way you deal with your anxieties about the pandemic and lockdown has a major influence on how your kids will deal with the situation.
Everybody is under stress at the moment: children, parents, teachers, policy makers etc. There’s no clear answer to what exactly the right thing to do is.
While many parents are eager for schools to reopen, others are scared that their kids will get the virus if they send them to school.
This means that parents are under a lot of strain to come up with new plans and new ways for their families to cope with the COVID-19 pandemic, the lockdown and the uncertainty about what will happen next with the school calendar.
“Parent’s stress and anxiety is exacerbated by this uncertainty,” says psychologist Ilse de Beer.
She says parents must be aware that the way they deal (or don’t deal) with the situation has a major influence on how their children will deal with it. “Parents who are overanxious and on the verge of panic, cannot expect their children to cope with their own anxiety and fears,” says de Beer.
She adds that in order to deal with their anxieties about sending their kids back to school during the second wave of COVID-19, parents should take into considerations the following two factors:
- The virus itself
- The emotional side of the COVID 19 pandemic
Educate yourself about COVID-19. It’s important to find a healthy balance, says de Beer.
“Get information from trustworthy sources and stop yourself from “going down a rabbit hole” of information, for example on social media. Be in control of the information you receive and research. Feeling in control is a major deterrent of anxiety.”
The emotional side:
Acknowledge your own and your child’s levels of stress and feelings of uncertainty without causing panic. “This validation is very important for everyone in the family. Normalize feelings of stress and anxiety, don’t overemphasize or disregard it,” says de Beer. “Make sure your children feel heard. Be empathetic and don’t make unrealistic and false promises.” It’s also important for you as a parent, to find a space where you can be heard, supported and encouraged. This might be in conversations with your partner, friends or a support group of other parents.
Practical tips to cope with anxiety:
- Acknowledge feelings of anxiety and that it’s ok to feel anxious sometimes.
- Ask for help (from trusted and supportive people around you – your parents, friends, colleagues, a support group of parents etc.), when you need it. “Sometimes we also just need someone with a willing and non-judgemental ear to listen to what we are feeling and going through,” de Beer says.
- Keep balance in your life. Good eating-, sleeping- and exercise habits are important. They can have a positive effect on your ability to manage anxiety.
- Stay informed about COVID-19 news and your children’s school’s response to the second wave. Choose a couple of trustworthy sources where to get information. “Other than that, leave the COVID-19 news, social media posts etc. be. Your self-discipline in this regard will be vital to managing your anxiety. Find a healthy medium here,” de Beer advices.
- Make sure that informal discussions/conversations are kept light and not about all the troubles and effects of the virus.
- Your example and energy have a powerful effect on your children. If you are panicked or overly negative, this will rub off on your kids. But if your children see that you retain a sense of positivity in spite of everything that happened due to COVID; it bolsters them and gives them hope. They are the also more likely to believe that things will be ok. And this leads to, amongst others, self-confidence and optimism. “If your children feel confident and optimistic it will contribute to lessening your anxiety,” de Beer says.
- Provide your children with the age-appropriate basic knowledge of the virus. Explain to your kids how they can keep themselves and other people safe. For example: Wearing your mask, washing your hands and utilizing social distancing. “If your child is prepared in this regard, it will contribute to lessen your anxiety,” de Beer says.
- Don’t go into panic mode. Don’t allow yourself to be overwhelmed by thoughts of what can go wrong. Focus on what you can do. “Tell yourself that things will be ok and will get better. Remember your brain will follow your lead. And if you keep on giving yourself positive feedback, your brain will start believing it,” says de Beer.
- Keep your body and mind busy with physical activities that you can do, even in a confined space. Play games with your family, explore your creativity. Catch up doing things that you never have time for and that you enjoy. Find some time to spend on selflove and -care.
- Teach yourself a positive mantra for example: “I am calm; I am in control; I am capable of handling this situation.” Repeat it over and over in your mind. Your mind believes what you tell it.
- If your anxiety levels become unbearable, please see a professional for help.
More about the expert:
Ilse de Beer is a psychologist, specialising in health psychology. As a motivational speaker, she focuses on equipping people to function better emotionally in their day-to-day life. She holds a Magister Artium in Psychology from the Potchefstroom University for CHE as well as a PhD in Psychology from the University of Pretoria. Learn more about Ilse de Beer here.
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