Pay attention to how Covid-19 is affecting your Children
Causes for Anxiety in Children
• Returning to school after a lengthy absence
• Not seeing or being allowed play dates with friends
• Missing grandparents, cousins and extended family
• Picking up on parental anxiety
• Worry about getting sick
• Worry about parents or grandparents getting sick
• Worry about completing an academic year
• Anger and frustration about missing out on parties, dances, sporting and cultural events
• Online schooling and the adjustment
• Large amounts of schoolwork with the expectation to be completed independently
• Looming exams and deadlines
• Picking up on parental anxiety
• Academic pressure (from parents and from school)
It is fairly understandable that children will become anxious because of the looming anxiety in newspapers and the news. How your child/ren will respond to the anxiety will depend on their developmental stage and of course how adults behave around them.
Toddlers and Pre-Schoolers:
Children who are toddlers and pre-schoolers often pick up on parents’ anxiety. You may see your toddler being clingy, or sudden bedwetting or refusing to sleep alone. They may also be a change in their eating habits and sleep disturbances as a result of anxiety. Try to create a space where they feel protected as much as possible.
Children in Primary School:
Your child in primary school might show regressive behaviour. Some may complain about headaches, body aches, and sore tummies. You can also expect some excessive crying or high irritability. You may also see a drop in academic performance because they simply avoid going to school. Some children with OCD could become obsessed with washing their hands because of the fear of contamination.
Adolescents can also present with behavioural disturbances. This may manifest as acting out and irritable behaviours, as they attempt to express their frustration and they may become oppositional and defiant. But just as worrying is a teen who becomes more withdrawn than usual. Look out for difficulties in concentration and attention, excessive sadness or worry and avoidance of activities they used to enjoy. There is a risk that the teen will turn to alcohol, tobacco or drugs to self-medicate.
Teens with ADHD may find planning and keeping a routine at-home challenging. Restricted movements and activities may cause restlessness and lack of freedom may exacerbate frustration.
Here are some ways to deal with this:
• Be open and provide age-appropriate information about the virus as parents do not pretend as though things are as per normal.
• Allow them to tell you about their feelings
• Validate their feelings with clear and simple messages and respond with empathy
• Give your child assurance that they are
• Share with them how you manage your stress and perhaps they could learn from you on how to cope
Mental Health Tips for your Child:
• Keep them active with regular exercise
• Get enough night sleep
• Prepare and eat healthy meals
• Keep a schedule for wakeup and bedtime
• Limit the family’s exposure to news about Covid-19 statistics
• Practice healthy habits yourself as an adult to set an example for your kids
• Make time to spend with your kids and do some meaningful activities such as exercising, reading together and playing board games
Behaviours that require immediate professional attention:
• Talking about death and suicide
• Violence during play
• Not managing school or activities of daily living
This challenging season will come to pass. Show some kindness to yourself and your children. Be assured that schoolwork will be caught up. As frequent as possible create a safe space where your children feel loved and cared for whilst creating some special memories with all the quality time spent together.