Supporting your son with COVID-Related Anxiety
There are times when we all feel the strain. As parents and carers, there are ways we can support children and young people to give them the best chance to stay mentally healthy.
Some children and young people have enjoyed being off school, while others will have really struggled – with the coronavirus outbreak keeping them at home and away from friends. Others may be coming to terms with family problems, loss or changes to their living situation.
With nationwide and local restrictions being regularly reviewed, they may also have to deal with self-isolating because of an outbreak in school or another period of school closure, or have worries about getting or passing on the virus. It's still uncertain what further changes we all may face.
Feelings like these will gradually ease for most, but there are always steps you can take to support them emotionally and help them cope with problems they face.
If your child is anxious or worried about coronavirus (COVID-19), there are things you can do to help. And if they're struggling with their mental health, we have advice below to help you support them and keep them safe. There's a lot of uncertainty in the world at the moment. And there won't always be answers to the questions your children are asking. But we can help you have these conversations in a safe and open way.
You can also try these tips to help talk to your child about coronavirus from Blackpool Better Start.
1. Honest Talking
Encourage your child to talk to you or another trusted adult about how they’re feeling. Remember, this doesn’t always have to be face-to-face – they might find it easier writing their thoughts down. You could create a ‘feelings box’ where you all put good, sad or difficult feelings in and then talk about them at the end of the day.
You might notice some changes in your children's behaviour. Older children may have mood swings and be irritable. You might also notice changes in appetite or sleep patterns. These can be ways your child is experiencing stress. It takes time to adjust to the new "normal" and children may need lots of support and reassurance to help them through it.
Your child might have a very real fear of the people they love and care for dying or getting seriously ill. It can be difficult but it's okay to have conversations about death. Please look at our pages to deal with bereavement here.
Some young people might be anxious about if there will be enough food. Have conversations about how what they might see in the news or online isn't always the same as what's happening. Involve them in food shopping and be mindful of conversations you might have with other adults about frustrations buying food.
Rolling news and social media can cause a lot of anxiety. Remind children of the facts and explain what false or sensationalised information is. It's important to allow your children to ask questions about the things they see online. And if you don't know the answer, letting them know that some things aren't certain or known yet is okay.
2. Keep in touch with Family and Friends and balance screen time.
It’s important to understand the huge impact of missing family, friends and schoolmates can have on children of all ages. Let your child express these emotions and don’t minimise their feelings.
Finding ways to have social interactions can be tricky, especially if you’re worried about screen-time, but it's possible to find the right balance with using smartphones and webcams to keep in touch. Talk together about how you can all manage your screen-time as a family. The benefits of alleviating anxiety by staying connected to friends and family cannot be underestimated.
With most socialising moving online, it's important to have conversations on how an increase in screen-time can have an impact on everyone's mental health and self-esteem. It's okay to let your children know that the way they might feel is a normal response to an abnormal situation.
3. Creating Structure and Routine.
It's normal for a lack of routine and structure to make children and young people feel anxious and upset. It can be challenging to find a routine that works for everyone, especially if you're juggling working from home with taking care of children with different needs. A rota or timetable, even a loose one, can help alleviate anxiety. Structure can help children see what's happening next in the day, look forward to rest of the week and differentiate between weekdays and weekends.
Signs that something might be wrong.
Around 1 in 8 children and young people experience behavioural or emotional problems growing up. For some, these will resolve with time, while others will need professional support.
It can be difficult to know if there is something upsetting a child or young person, but there are ways to spot when something's wrong. Look out for:
- significant changes in behaviour
- ongoing difficulty sleeping
- withdrawing from social situations
- not wanting to do things they usually like
- self-harm or neglecting themselves
Remember, everyone feels low, angry or anxious at times. But when these changes last for a long time or are significantly affecting them, it might be time to get professional help.
You know your child better than anyone so, if you're worried, first think if there has been a significant, lasting change in their behaviour. This could be at home or school; with others or on their own; or in relation to specific events or changes in their life.
General Support with Covid-Related Anxiety
- If you're concerned about a child or young person's mental health, you can get free, confidential advice via phone, email or webchat from the Young Minds Parents Helpline. Action for Children has lots of tips to help you spot signs of mental health issues in children and advice on the action you can take to help.
- Barnardo's has also set up the See, Hear, Respond support hub – a dedicated service to help children, young people and their families or carers with problems caused by the coronavirus outbreak.
- Experiencing the loss of a friend or loved one can be extremely difficult. The Childhood Bereavement Network has information and links to national and local organisations you or the child you look after might find helpful.
- Any professional that works with children and young people should be able to help you get support. You could talk to a teacher, school nurse, social worker or GP.
- You can find more information about NHS children and young people's mental health services (CYPMHS) on the NHS website. You can also look at your local Clinical Commissioning Group website, and most services also have their own website with information about access, referrals (including whether you can "self-refer") and contact details – try searching in your area for "CYPMHS" or "CAMHS" (children and adolescent mental health services, an older term used for some CYPMHS).