Managing Parental Anxiety During the Coronavirus Pandemic

When it comes to the Coronavirus, parents, we are all in this together. Many of us are trying to create a new normal, one which focuses on calm, structure and routine.  You might be experiencing feelings of anxiety that you have never felt before, or at least not at this heightened level. And you may be seeing behaviors in your children that are new and unrecognizable. 

As parents, we want to be at our best for our children and we of course want the best for our children.  Many of us across the globe are social distancing at home. We are now busy planning lessons and trying to keep our children engaged, while still juggling much needed jobs, new stressors and a variety of other household responsibilities. With schools and daycares closed and no recreational activities to keep our kids occupied we are spending more time at home with our children and we are getting to know them in different ways as we face the uncertainty of the current situation. As news of the pandemic continues to sweep across the world, it can be helpful to learn more about how our anxiety manifests itself and new tools to manage our anxieties as parents. 

Get to Know your Anxiety

Anxiety is your body’s reaction to stress, a force that is only a part of who you are in your entirety. When we can see anxiety as an outside force, we can detach from it. Remember, you are not your anxiety, it is just a part of who you are and what you are feeling.  We can make it something to work with and manage rather than do away with or shun. With this “going in” approach to our anxiety, we can fully recognize it so that it no longer blindly controls us. Some fear is healthy and protective. Some fear is detrimental and destructive. We must become the observer of our own process and see what is causing us this uncomfortable feeling known as anxiety. Projecting into the future trying to solve future problems and predict future events can create anxiety. This desire to solve and predict is very human and innate. It will not diminish; however, we can in fact make efforts to reduce how much of this we do. We can save our future projecting energies for when our wellbeing truly calls for this kind of assessment.  

Decide How You Will Manage Your Anxiety

Ultimately how you manage your anxiety is a personal decision and with the right tools in your pocket can be a choice. . In the end, we will all be characterized in some way by how we manage our fears. The energy that creates and maintains fears is intense and consuming. We know certain fears exist in our lives, and we must take action to manage them. Some fears are instincts telling us to do a thing or make a change. When we learn how to listen to, honor, and address our fears, they give us the information we need without controlling us. When we recognize a fear for what it is, we can hold ourselves accountable to either act on it or release it. As we learn adaptable ways to manage our anxiety, we can model this for our children. 

Recognize and Comfort Anxiety in Your Child

Kids show their needs in strange and distinct ways. What can sometimes look like rebellious or destructive behavior, can be a sign of distress. Aim to understand your child; see how improving your own attitude and outlook can influence them to do the same. We can always teach new skills and teach our children how to better manage themselves through modeling calm and appropriate behavior. When we learn to manage our own anxiety, it is then possible to teach our children to do the same. However, the first step is to heal our own anxiety. Our internal state provides a wealth of knowledge beyond our words; children learn how to manage themselves in the world by watching us. Children study our reactions and mood in order to obtain information necessary to their survival. Children offer us the chance to study and adjust our own internal state as we ask them to do the same. 

Be Honest and Communicate Openly With your Children

This important communication can be a few minutes here and there, and more as needed. Try to fit deep and relevant conversation into everyday life. Model vulnerability to your child and share how you are working to handle your anxiety differently; you will help to normalize their anxiety to them and encourage them to share their struggle as well. Ask questions about what they think about Coronavirus; quiet your own inner voice enough to hear them and feel their concerns. Be a safe and consistent place for your child to come as they seek answers. Connect with your child over sharing one of the deepest of human fears, that of uncertainty. If you are feeling very worried and fearful about the Coronavirus and the effects it is having on the world, share this with your child while modeling an appropriate way to manage your discomfort. Practice honest vulnerability with your child to improve connection and closeness. 

Create Mindful Activities Together

Set a family meditation time aside or go for a walk together where you practice using your five senses to bring yourself into the moment. Practice recognizing and labeling what is happening in the exact moment, avoiding past or future thinking. Children are naturally more present in the moment and the more we can nurture and appreciate that skill in them, the better it will serve them. Utilizing self-discipline to maintain your attention in the present moment, can be marvelously transforming. Setting aside a dedicated time to do this is very important at first. It will start to become a more common way of life as you practice it more and more. Meditation is a dedicated time to practice present moment awareness. 

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