The confusion surrounding the opening and re-closing of schools in South Africa has many parents worried about the changes in their children's behaviour. Trouble sleeping, lack of concentration, clinginess, worried thinking, tantrums, tummy aches, and headaches are some of the common symptoms parents are noticing.
Children are confused. Common worries include:
"Am I going back to school or not?",
"Will I be finishing my academic year?",
"Will I ever see my friends again?".
Confusion leads to anxiety. And disruptive behaviour is often the result of unrecognised anxiety.
It is not easy to read the signals of anxiety. Children deal with stress in numerous different ways and it can manifest in behavioural changes particularly with children that aren't verbal yet.
So, what can you do? First, you need to understand the underlying anxiety that is causing the behaviour. Don't just assume! Talk to your child and apply your Active Listening skills. Only once you've validated the things that are causing the behaviour can you move forward.
You and your child need to be aware of what triggers anxiousness. And both of you need to explore clever and creative ways of how you plan on dealing with these overwhelming feelings in the future. Here are some suggestions:
Regular mindful check-ins
Another way of looking at anxiety is as a future-oriented state of thinking. We worry about things that haven't happened and rarely do. Mindfulness is a mental state of being present and can be exceptionally challenging especially during challenging times. According to the Child Mind Institute, practicing mindfulness with children can decrease stress and anxiety.
Quick mindfulness techniques to try:
Stand still and become silent for 5 minutes
Take 10 breaths
Name five things in the world around you - focus on the senses, what do you see, smell, hear, feel, and taste.
Name or draw your emotions
Create mindful moments with your children - enjoy family meals together, take walks, do activities together
Teach your child to take a moment daily to become present with the help of these mindfulness techniques.
Get to know the brain and breathe
When children understand what’s happening in the brain, it can make them feel more in control and help them ease anxiety. Deep breathing is one of the best ways to connect with the brain. How? Because when you breathe deeply, it sends a message to your brain to calm down and relax.
Dr Dan Siegel's hand model of the brain is a clever example to use when teaching your child about his/her brain and anxious times can lead to changes in the brain.
Watch the video here: https://youtu.be/qFTljLo1bK8
Create a safe space
Dedicate a space in your home that your child can go to when they feel overwhelmed. Allow your child to be part of creating this space - don't just take control and assume you know what is best. I child that feels included, will feel more in control and more willing to make it work for them.
Remember, when parents are anxious that stress becomes contagious. We all get overwhelmed with anxiety, and especially more so during a global pandemic! But the difference between parent and child is that the parent has more experience and the mental capabilities to manage anxiety and therefore set the example. In the words of L.R. Knost "When little people are overwhelmed by big emotions, it's our job to share our calm, not to join their chaos."
Learn more about our parenting course: https://www.parents.co.za/parent-training
Disclaimer: The information contained in this communication is not to be construed as medical advice. Consult a professional on any medical or psychological concerns. The articles and blogs are posted only as opinion or ideas, and are general in nature. The administrator takes no responsibility for any action or outcome a reader may make as a result of reading a post.