During these very stressful times, parents may be battling their own uncertainty and anxiety, whilst trying to keep their children happy and well.
Psychologist Karen Young is the founder of Hey Sigmund and author of Hey Warrior. Her area of specialty is helping parents and children deal with anxiety and we spoke to her about helping kids through this challenging time.
Listen to Karen Young on Feed Play Love
Karen says that in these strange times it’s important to realise that challenging feelings are … completely normal and to be expected.
She suggests we normalise our response to what’s going on and set aside the self-judgement.
“It’s really normal to feel anxious and it’s really normal to feel frustrated. And for some people, they might not actually feel anything at all. And that’s okay, too.”
Finding a safe place
Karen urges parents to look for ‘safe places’ and quiet amidst what feels like chaotic times. She stresses that these hard days will pass and that it’s important to impart that to our children (and remind ourselves of this during the more challenging days too.)
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“Whatever the next few months look like, we’ll get through this,” Karen says.”We come back to each other, to our families, to stillness, to play, to sleeping, to whatever makes sense for us. And the ones we love.”
“We come back to doing those family things … so we aren’t going out as much. We change the way we do things to what we can manage and and what works for each other. So we contract and and we withdraw a little bit into a world that does feel safe. In our homes we can be safe.”
It’s okay to be anxious
While some parents may be keen to put on a cheery face for their kids, Karen assure us that it’s okay to be human and to express your anxiety.
“It’s okay to let our kids see that we might feel a bit anxious, but we have to do that with strength,” she explains.
“We can sit down with them and say ‘yes, some of this is frightening, but I know we’re going to be okay. We are going to be okay.’ So we add our courage and strength.”
“We tell them what ever they need to feel safe – ‘yes, there is something happening and it’s changing all the time, and there are people who are working really hard to keep us safe.'”
Find out what they know
Some older children may have heard various things about the pandemic at school or childcare and Karen says it’s important to unpack that and give them more reliable facts.
“We also have to find out what they know and how they’re making sense of it,” she advises. “So the conversation might start with ‘What have you heard about this? There’s a lot of information and probably people are talking about it at school. What have you heard?'”
“We want to know how they’re making sense of this, because they might not necessarily ask questions if they think they’ve gotten answers, and the answers might not be right. So we want the opportunity to correct that. Again, we tell them whatever they need to feel safe.”
Play, read and write through it
Karen notes there are all kinds of ways we can help our kids to feel their way through these unprecedented days.
“This is a time – more than ever – we need to play with our children. We can still go to parks. We can still go for walks. We can still play with them outside.”
She also suggests some resources which may help focus kids’ feelings in healthy ways.