Have you been feeling more anxious lately? Anxiety is a feeling of worry, nervousness or uneasiness about an outcome (WHO, 2018) that comes from a humans’ innate need to protect themselves from danger. Think of it as your bodies’ and minds’; natural way of preparing itself for a crisis.
Thus, given the current situation, remind yourselves that what you might be feeling is normal and natural!
Practical tips for caregivers to safeguard their children’s mental health:
1. Model appropriate behaviour: Remember that as a caregiver, you are your child’s safe base. In other words, your child will come to you for reassurance when they feel upset or anxious. More so, children observe how you, as a caregiver, deal with a situation and learn to copy it. While these are extraordinary times, excessively sharing your worries with your children will only serve to heighten their anxiety levels. Thus, if your child notices you getting overly upset and anxious given the current situation, they will model this behaviour. If children ask why they aren’t going to school or attending other extra-curricular activities, a more age-appropriate explanation is suggested. A number of adequately explained videos that illustrate the situation simply can also be found online.
2. Involving children in everyday activities: What better way to fill up a child’s day than to involve them in everyday activities? Let your children help prepare lunch/dinner, bake some dessert, or even do some chores. Involve your children in the feeding and caring of pets. With a bit of imagination, even loading and unloading the washing machine could be turned into a game. Not only will children enjoy doing the ‘grown up stuff’, it will help them learn new skills and improve their dexterity.
3. Never miss an opportunity to teach: What better time to teach children about proper hygiene, or engage in more time-consuming educational activities or life skills? From potty training to reading, caregivers can use this time to teach children anything, perhaps even while learning something themselves.
4. Maintaining a Routine: Have you ever asked yourself why children love watching the same videos/films time and time again? Children love ‘knowing’ or ‘predicting’ what comes next as it brings about security and increases self-confidence. In these uncertain times, bring more stability and security into your child’s life by maintaining a routine. Below is an example:
5. Keep moving: Play is a child’s language and a way of distracting themselves from what is going on around them. Find isolated spaces such as your roof, garden, a nearby field, or even a secluded place in the countryside where your children can run around and expend their energy. Turn to the many online workouts being offered on social media and participate in these classes together.
In these challenging times, one can easily let their anxiety take over. Try to remember that you are not tackling this pandemic alone, and a number of professionals and specialists (doctors, nurses, civil protection personnel) are specifically trained to handle these uncertain situations. One should never underestimate the resilience of human nature. Do your part, stay safe, and stay happy. Your children will learn and thank you for it.
Jan Mallia Azzopardi
BPsy (Hons) University of Malta
MA Couns Psy, School Psy, Coun Educ, Univeristy of Maryland College Park (USA)
MA T-Couns University of Malta