Manage COVID-19 and back-to-school anxiety with Dr. Payan

Covid-19 and back-to-school anxiety and stress

As the summer comes to an end, parents are worried about their kids going back to school during COVID-19. With so many unanswered questions about school guidelines on social distancing, parents are concerned about their child’s safety, learning progress, and mental health state.

Preparing your kids (and taming anxiety) about going back to school during COVID-19

Covid-19 and back-to-school-anxiety and stress

By nature, each child will react differently to any given situation; they will make their own assumptions and conclusions. As parents, we strive to be a role model for our kids. We also want to protect them from the world and eliminate any harm that may come their way. Mental health illnesses are difficult to control and manage (for kids and adults, alike) and may negatively impact a person’s daily functioning. So, what can a parent do right now to prepare their child for the upcoming weeks?

1. Limit exposure to COVID-19 news, including about back to school

Too many times I have heard kids tell me they saw it on the news (whatever “it” was). As a result, they face anxiety, cannot sleep, worry about their safety and their parents’ well-being, and cling to their parents the minute they must step out the door. Adults sometimes do not realize that kids are paying attention to the world around them when we least expect them to. They are copying your behaviors as you react to the news on the T.V. and are looking to you for guidance. The best thing to do is to limit the news in the home. When you talk to others about COVID and back to school, step outside or go upstairs.

2. Start practicing relaxation exercises

The earlier you start teaching and preparing your child to manage their worries and anxiety, at home and when they go back to school, the better prepared they will feel the first few days of school. I imagine that school will be hectic, will look and feel different, and kids’ days will be structured differently. All these changes will undoubtedly affect the kids. How much it will affect each one will largely depend on the child. Give him or her the tools today and prepare them for tomorrow.

  • Teach them diaphragmatic (deep) breathing
  • Engage them in visual exercises by having them close their eyes and picturing a relaxing setting
  • Play calming music every night to fall asleep
  • Have them write on a piece of paper their fears and talk to them about it
  • Start a journal, which is a great way to help monitor their thoughts

3. Be open and emotionally available

Children will often ask their parents thousands of questions before asking the one they need answered. It is a way to test their parents’ openness and emotional availability before they express what they are truly thinking and feeling. Have an uninterrupted scheduled and talk with your child, age-appropriately, about what they can expect when they return to school and allow them to ask questions.

If you are totally lost about what to say or if you feel that your child is overly anxious about the whole situation, then my advice is for you to seek professional help. Telehealth is available in all states with different mental health counselors and psychologists. You may need just a bit of guidance and your child could benefit from a qualified therapist.

Ailyn Payan, Psy.D.
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