Where Are All My Classmates? – A Child’s Worry
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The approval of the COVID vaccine for children is a huge relief for parents across the country. It has brought renewed hope as well. Now, finally (maybe?) parents can look forward to some normalcy and predictability in their kids’ school schedules. And, kids can get back to socializing with their friends, some of whom are experiencing in-class learning for the first time.
But COVID is still causing a lot of disruption. School absences are common as a lot of families quarantine due to COVID or COVID exposures. On top of that, we’re in flu season. Our kids may not know whether their friends are out because of the flu or COVID, or some other reason. This can cause our kids a tremendous amount of worry! How can we support our kids during this unusual time?
Recognize, don’t dismiss, their emotions
The first step is to recognize what our kids are going through. Attuning to our kids’ emotions can reveal that they are, in fact, anxious and worried. It can be natural to try to force our kids to stop worrying as soon as possible. But, that is usually counterproductive. Feeling emotions is normal, and necessary. Human beings, especially young ones, need to feel emotions without judgment. Usually, emotions – even the big scary ones – subside on their own.
Empathize and talk to them
Reassuring our kids that we also feel anxiety and worry can be a first good step to making sure our kids don’t feel shame about their feelings of worry and anxiety. Talk to your kids about what’s real and what’s not. Anxiety can make our kids’ imaginations run wild with unfounded fears. Talking to our kids about why their classmates may be staying home – and what their friends may be going through at home – is a good start. Ask your son or daughter what they did last time that they were out sick from school. Your child may recall sitting on the couch with a blanket, watching favorite movies all day. Then, they can imagine their friends doing the same thing. Picturing their friends enjoying a sick day can alleviate some of their worries.
Co-regulate to a calm place
If your child continues to show anxiety and worry, or they seem a little out of touch or unusually temperamental, then it may be a good day time to bring in some mindfulness exercises. As adults, we can co-regulate our emotions with our children through the calming effects of mindfulness activities. Doing yoga is a fantastic way to bring our children back into reality as they get in touch with their body, their breathing, and their senses. Getting outside when possible, playing with a football, basketball, or frisbee – anything physical and playful – where there is reciprocity of fun and joy can help tremendously. Children, like us, tune into other adults to help regulate their emotions, and seeing a parent laugh and play can reassure an anxious child.
Overall, we want to be honest and talk to our kids about emotions, about how emotions change, how we can have several feelings at the same time. This is such an important piece of social development. When we avoid our child’s emotions or put our emotional needs in front of theirs, they will still feel their feelings, but they may also feel guilt, shame, and confusion on top of everything. Children may feel wrong for being worried about their friends when they absolutely should be worried! After all, we don’t like to see our friends suffer. Anxiety is natural. It’s part of life. In this time of uncertainty, where kids are exposed to all sorts of messages about our health, we must talk to them about their anxiety and worry, let them feel it, and show them ways to move through it (instead of ignoring or dismissing it). Doing this work will help our child be empathetic, resilient, and emotionally mature.
If you know your child could use some support because their worry is really hard to manage, please call today to schedule Schedule an Appointment