Children, Anxiety, and Social Distancing
Interestingly, the majority of my teens and children clients who have anxiety are thriving right now. One possible reason could be social distancing. While the Covid-19 Pandemic has turned life for most of us upside down, people with anxiety are finding some relief. Especially our school-aged children. Why is this? My guess is that people with anxiety often feel overstimulated, and now there is less stimulation. The challenge for us as parents and caregivers is how to continue this newfound relief as we transition out of social isolation back to “normal.”
As a parent and therapist, I want nothing more than to help these kids and teens experience this continued relief for the rest of their lives. I do not have a guaranteed solution, because it is never black and white while dealing with anxiety in kids, but I do have a few thoughts on where to begin.
1. Talk with your child about what it currently feels like to have less anxiety:
What kinds of thoughts do they have? What does their body feel like? What kinds of emotions do they have? This is what it feels like to have less anxiety! It is important to dive deeper than, “I feel good” as an answer. Explore it and put words to it.
2. Examine what is different about their routine and environment:
Yes, being at home and not going to school is a major change. What is it about not going to school that is better? Is it the lack of deadlines, the slower pace, being around fewer people, or the noise level? It doesn’t matter what it is, the important part is to start talking about it.
3. Start thinking about ways to incorporate this new knowledge into life and routines once life begins to go back to normal:
I don’t mean to keep your child home from school forever (who would want that?!). Encourage your child to be a part of this discussion, and start trying out these strategies now. Some examples of what that looks like could be that if having less homework is keeping stress down, discuss solutions on how to stay on top of homework such as putting things on a calendar and asking kids what they think will keep homework from getting out of hand. If they have the time to complete schoolwork at their own pace, talk about strategies for managing time or requesting more time from the teacher. If a new routine that is less demanding is helping, find time to create a new, less packed schedule.
Be creative. There is not a one size fits all solution. Your child is an individual, let them shine!
Katie Penree, MSW, LCSW
Mental Health Therapist