If you’re a parent, you have undoubtedly experienced many disappointments along with your kids during this very upside down time.
I personally have gone through an extensive grieving period. 2020 was supposed to be a very special year at school for all 3 of my girls.
Rachel and Emily graduated from 8th and 6th grades and Natalie finished her magical kindergarten year with our beloved Mrs. Higgins who also taught Emily and Rachel.
Literally when Natalie was in the womb, we all talked about her arriving at school and spending the year with Mrs. Higgins. Unfortunately, that got cut short by Covid-19.
The graduations we anticipated and fun family celebrations didn’t happen either.
For weeks on end, when I thought about it, my heart fell. I also observed that I wasn’t the only one who exhibited grieving symptoms and anxiety. Natalie really has been taking it hard. More so than her older sisters.
Today I’m going to share helpful ways to assist your kids in dealing with stress and anxiety.
Observe your child
As summer is in full swing, another major disappointment is the myriad of camps I had anticipated signing Natalie up for. Finally, she was old enough to attend some really fun camps and I had the bandwidth to take her and be more involved.
As the third child, she at times has been raised by wolves (or spongebob and Disney princesses). Talk about mommy guilt!
Travis and I have noticed in the last couple months that she has been exhibiting stress in ways that were not typical for her. She had problems falling asleep. No matter how we helped her to learn self soothing techniques she still didn’t fall asleep until 2am!
Also, when getting ready to go to an infrequent social distancing event like July 4th, she experienced mixed and social anxiety feelings. She didn’t know how to express it so there was whining and tears.
Of course, once we got there, she had the time of her life and I noticed she ate up all the attention she got and talked everyone’s ear off.
Observing your child’s behaviors is important. A good idea is to journal a few days of interactions. You might notice some patterns or triggers that you weren’t aware of.
Travis and I noticed in the beginning of March, Natalie procrastinated bedtime. We didn’t think much of it and enforced as usual. In hindsight, it would have been good for us to touch base with Natalie more directly about any worries, anxieties, and feelings.
Bedtime procrastination soon turned into the inability to fall asleep. She is still great about staying in bed for the most part. But the requests for water and coming downstairs at 11pm to ask for a snack was increasing.
Tools to help kids de-stress
I’m very well versed in sleep training and helping kids with sleep and anxiety. You would assume it was all my therapy work with my clients.
But I also had Rachel who was another nervous sleeper. It was really hard for her to fall asleep as well. She didn’t grow out of it until 10 or 11 years old.
Here are tips that will help your child de-stress:
- Lavender aromatherapy: I absolutely love using aromatherapy for myself and my family. I have a keen sense of smell. (I’m well known in my family to accuse others of farting when they didn’t, hahahah, TMI? Oh, well. Now you really know me!) Anyways, the converse of stinky smells, making us squint and cover up our noses, lavender automatically hits our olfactory system and tells our brains to breathe in and relax our muscles. Instantaneous!
- Breathing: Speaking of breathing in, Deep breaths send oxygen to the brain, soothing the amygdala, a small area in the middle of each hemisphere that acts as the brain’s alarm system. We began teaching Natalie to deep breath with the calm app.
Use a meditation and calming app for kids! We love the calm app bedtime stories. It teaches kids to deep breathe and relax in a kid friendly environment. Natalie feels very motivated to get to bed because she gets to use my phone and listen to fun bedtime stories.
- Name their feelings: This is a biggie! Doesn’t matter if you’re 5 or 500, having a robust vocabulary of “feeling words” is essential for successful communication. When kids are in preschool, teachers often say “use your words”. It’s a wonderful cue to teach kids from the get go that words are much more effective than whining and protesting. Here is a feelings word list. If you subscribe to my blog, you will get this free!
- Play together: You may think your kids are playing all day already. But spending time playing with them is even better! As much time we are spending together at home, devices and WFH can lower the quality level. I am guilty of being at home with my kids but definitely need to make a concerted effort to let loose with them. Instead of a serious talk, playing together is fun and casual. Kids are more apt to share real feelings when they are having fun. That is why play therapy is used for kids in therapy.
- Move your bodies together: Just like my blog post on how the girls and I have fun dancing and playing in the desert den, it’s important you get up from your chair and move with your kids! The mind body connection is really important to maintain during these crazy times. Your modeling to your kids that self care is important will speak spades to their own personal growth.
As we navigate this pandemic, our anxieties and stress have hit new levels. We oftentimes turn to adults assuming they are bearing the weight of these stresses. Lest we forget that most kids were ripped out of school, forced to stay home and inside, and got little to no contact with their friends. That is a huge shift for kids who thrive on social interactions. It’s ok if your kids are showing signs of stress an anxiety. Take these tips to your family and dig into how you can be a resource as your little ones navigate their anxieties.
The good thing is that we have the same tried and true research proven techniques to alleviate kids’ anxieties as we do adults! We are in this together guys. We will come through it together.