By Nikki Temkin, a functional health and wellness coach in Johannesburg. She helps clients recover from anxiety, stress, burnout, kids anxiety and other health conditions to achieve balance, joy, vitality and wellbeing. Follow Nikki on Instagram and Facebook.
As adults we are trying to make sense of and function in the world that has gone topsy turvy. First, Covid-19 and all it has wrought on our daily lives… and now, recent violent and explosive events in country have added fuel to the fear and anxiety. How can we manage our kids anxiety in these turbulent times?
If you think that you are struggling to manage it all right now, imagine just what children must be feeling. It’s just “toomuchery” (according to a meme I was sent today and that’s quite a good way of describing it in kid’s terms).
15 Helpful Tips to Manage our Kids Anxiety
Be their safe space. It’s essential to allow your kids to express and verbalise all these big and scary feelings using open-ended questions. It is part of our job as parents to be the receptacle for these emotions and hold them for our kids, validate and affirm them. They need to know that life is sometime scary, but that we can get through it together. There’s no shame in feeling overwhelmed. They may want to draw how they feel or write about it.
Remain reassuring. Even if you aren’t feeling particularly certain about anything, remind them that they are safe and loved. Remind them that “this will pass and won’t last forever” even if we don’t know exactly when things will go back to normal. Give brief, clear, age-appropriate answers.
Protect them by monitoring their screen time. Limit what they see and watch on social media or the news that is upsetting or violent. It will leave a mark on them. This also goes for overhearing adult conversations about the situation. If they are exposed to something, make sure to talk it through and explain the content and context. Ask them how they feel about it and encourage conversation. Of course, it does depend what age they are but allowing them to have all access to information is dangerous, escalating kids anxiety.
Manage your own feelings. You need to be a role model for how to handle and get through tough times and have coping skills. This does not mean you have to be perfect or pretend to be OK all the time. In fact, it’s the opposite. It’s about allowing your kids to witness and admitting that that you too, have big emotions and feelings and that processing that, talking about it and feeling that, will not break you, but is actually healthy and builds resilience. Avoid venting your own frustrations to your child.
Keep to a routine: This may be key to managing kids anxiety on all levels: kids feel safer and more in control with structure and this is particularly important at times of upheaval. Try to keep the same bedtime and eating routine.
Create a gratitude list- thinking of what’s good in life can contribute to uplifting the mood and feeling hopeful. Look for the positive.
Work on a vision board: this is a visual exercise to imagine a future filled with good things – not just material desires but parties, celebrations, friends, get togethers and adventures to look forward to.
Get outside: Whether for a walk, a bike ride, a picnic at the park. The light and being in nature is healthy uplifting.
Have fun and laugh: You can still create happiness within your home even with all that’s going on. Kids need to play and if they cannot see their friends, carve out time to listen or dance to music, watch a funny film or play a boardgame.
Keep moving: Exercise will keep the endorphins flowing and lead to an improved mood.
Go easy on the sugar: Your instinct might be to spoil them with sugary treats to make them feel better but this is shortsighted and will actually lead to them feeling worse in the long run.
Reach out to friends: let them talk to their friends via Teams or Zoom to reduce social isolation and loneliness and to distract them
Do something for others: This might include charity work, donations of food parcels or writing thank you letters. Acts of kindness remove the focus off ourselves and make us feel happier.
Decide together what you can control eg what you eat, what you say, who you talk, what you watch to etc.
Do breathing, meditation or pray together
Helpful supplements for kids anxiety
It’s normal to have insomnia or sleep issues when there is anxiety or even regression with toilet training or sleeping in their own bed. These supplements may help:
- Melatonin ( only in severe cases, in small doses at night, for the short term. Available from your doctor on script)
- Rescue Remedy – drops, tablets or even in lozenges can be calming
- Passiflora, Valerian and other herbs
- A small cup of Camomile tea before bedtime
- Neurest – safe neurological supplement for stress
- GABA- short term use in very small dosages.
- Magnesium Glycinate – reduce dosage if it causes a runny tummy
- Omega 3’s
- Vitamin B complex
- Lavender essential oil- a few drops in the bath or in a diffuser or under the pillow is calming.