Things are a little crazy in the world right now (to say the least!).
Not only is the country still coping with the impacts of a global pandemic, but there is now a natural disaster occurring very close to home with a real possibility of family or friends being impacted and a war in Europe to add to the seemingly ever-growing list of things to worry about.
While trying to shield children from the harsh realities of life may feel like the right thing to do, the truth is that they are going to find out about things, whether it be via friends and peers talking at school, seeing the news at home, or seeing things online. Not being open and talking about current events at home can lead to children worrying and becoming anxious.
As adults, we know that that the news is often sensationalised to grab attention and win the ratings war, social media is full of opinion and often lacking in fact, and that at school, peers and other children are highly likely to embellish the truth. But children are not always aware of this. In a sense they are very trusting and believe what they see and hear from others.
The uncertainty in the world right now is being felt by children.
I know this as a Mum with 2 children at school and as a mental health professional. Over the last 12 to 18 months there has been a significant increase in mental health concerns in children, with anxiety being at the top of the list. This along with behavioural concerns is certainly at the top of the list of concerns for parents right now which is interesting as what parents often don’t realise is that poor behaviour is often an indicator that children are struggling.
Indicators that a child is struggling, possibly with anxiety:
- Unprovoked emotional outbursts such as crying
- Anger outbursts triggered by something minor
- Disturbed sleep patterns such as difficulty getting to sleep or frequent waking during the night
- Inability to concentrate
- Quiet or withdrawn
- Acting out at school
- Headaches and/or upset stomachs
It is important to look at how our child is being as they often don’t have the cognitive ability to put into words how they are feeling or why they are acting in a certain way.
Here are 5 ways parents can support their children :
- Talk about current affairs. Hiding what is going on it can escalate feelings of concern in children. In an age-appropriate way talk about events and why mainstream media, social media or information from friends or peers is not always a balanced view.
- Be informed or search out the answers together. Often children think that parents have all the answers and when they don’t this can cause children to worry. It’s ok to not have all the answers and it’s important to be honest with children when you don’t know, but always offer to find out the answers together.
- Learn to listen. Often parents dismiss their child’s concerns thinking they are too young and don’t need to worry about these kinds of things. While that may be true, in not listening to children they learn that their feelings, thoughts and opinions are not valid or worse that they are wrong to think or feel this way.
- Resist the urge to fix. Parents want what is best for their children and often don’t want them to worry about things such as a pandemic, floods or a war. Rushing in with platitudes such as “That’s not something you need to worry about” or “It’s fine, there’s no need for you to be concerned” is again, dismissive and invalidating. Allow your children to voice their concerns, then work together to find a solution that is going to help them worry less.
- Be supportive. Given the opportunity and support children can be incredibly empathetic. Asking if they would like to do something to help and getting them to think about the ways they could be involved can be powerful. Anxiety is often a result of feeling out of control and by assisting children to feel like they can help others and make a difference helps restore balance to their though processes. Brainstorm with them about different ways they could help. Empower them with facts so they can inform friends and peers, collect items from the house they may be able to donate, help them organise a fundraiser if they feel so inclined.
Essentially children need parents to support and empower them. When we do this in seemingly small ways, big impacts are made on children’s development and confidence. If you are looking for additional support, you may want to consider a Child Anxiety Workshop.
Wendy is a Mum of 2 tweens and a mental health professional @amazeinmind with over 10 years experience. Wendy is passionate about supporting Mums of tweens and teens through courses, workshops and one to one coaching. Wendy’s goal is to help Mum’s create calm and harmonious homes through conscious parenting practices.