This post is dedicated to parents everywhere who are sending their children back to school amidst the “new normal” of social distancing and face masks. It will outline a skill that you can facilitate with your children to help them recognize what their anxiety is all about.
Right now we live in a world that is vastly different than 7 months ago. The challenge in all of this can be to allow anxiety about germs, and touching someone, and being in public to take over. Children are especially susceptible to the undercurrents of anxiety and stress about COVID. Understanding what their fears are, allowing them to face and feel them, and then helping them to see the truth about how they can respond is an opportunity that can create forward movement.
Anxiety is practicing failure in advance. Understanding what your child/children are experiencing and feeling is vital. It opens the door as a parent to help them see that they get to choose how they respond to their fears. Here is an activity to do with them:
Get a paper and crayons or markers.
Set a timer for 3 minutes.
Encourage your child to draw out what they are feeling–maybe it will be circles, or black marks, or scribbles. It doesn’t matter the shape or color. Allow them to express what is inside of them, however they want to.
After 3 minutes, ask them what words their “picture” represents. Then begin to ask questions such as, “What does ______ feel like inside of you? What do you hear in your head about _________? What does it mean that __________ is going on inside of you? What do you believe about yourself since you have _________ inside of you?”
It might be tempting to judge whatever your child shares as being wrong. It might be tempting to get them to see the bright side of things without really listening. It might be tempting to not really listen because it’s uncomfortable for you. What children need is to be heard. They need to know that whatever they are feeling and experiencing is ok.
Once your child has expressed their worries and fears and you have asked genuine questions because you are seeking to understand their world, help them to see that they are capable of moving through their fears about COVID with truth–truth that they can handle hard things; truth that most people who contact COVID don’t die; truth that they are wise as they interact with their friends and teachers; truth that they are good. Find one truth from their answers that speaks to their ability to handle the world of COVID. Create a statement and let this statement become an oft-repeated phrase at home. Watch practicing failure in advance become a thing of the past.