Post-Pandemic Anxiety in Children

The Uncharted Road to Normalcy

minds2grow article

Families across the U.S. hunkered down during the COVID-19 pandemic, taking on distance learning, working from home, and surviving life together around the clock. Children today are stressed on so many levels: challenged socially, academically, having to cope with physical changes, the influences of social media, and trying to fit in and be accepted. Now that the country is opening up, how can we help reduce anxiety in our children?

Prior to the pandemic, school-related anxiety was a common problem, but what we are seeing now is tinged with pandemic implications, reflecting the changes in the school year and general uncertainty about how long this will go on. Anxiety in children can take on many forms. For some, it’s feelings of worry when away from family or a caregiver, sadness, refusal to attend school or daycare, throwing tantrums when faced with separation, and physical complaints, like headaches, nausea, muscle tension, or difficulty sleeping. Children who suffer with anxiety are constantly asking for reassurance.

Anxiety becomes problematic when it interferes with a child’s daily functioning. The good news in all of this is that child anxiety is very treatable, especially with early intervention. By being able to identify triggers of anxiety and teaching children coping skills, you can empower them to manage their anxious feelings independently.

Routines and structure are important and can help children handle anxiety. The single most important thing is to have conversations with your children about how they are feeling, validate those feelings, and discuss how they can cope with such negative feelings. Other strategies—like mindful deep breathing, acknowledging the anxious thought and replacing it with a positive one, and my all-time favorite, using a “worry box” to put worries away for later—can help to manage anxiety as well.

When children experience symptoms of anxiety that interfere with their daily lives (symptoms occurring more often than not during at least a two-week period), it’s important to seek professional help.

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Georgia Scheible, LMFT 103974
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