It’s been a tough couple of weeks. First the terrible situation in Russia, then the floods here in Australia. We just don’t seem to be able to catch our breath. I’ve definitely been struggling this last week, as has everyone I know. Everyone is feeling it, including our kids.
A few nights ago over dinner my son asked me if there is going to be a World War 3 and if we would be ok. A couple of minutes later my daughter asked if COVID will ever go away. Earlier that afternoon we had been looking at images of the floods. I won’t lie, it felt like a dark conversation. I think I felt so exhausted by the last two years and overwhelmed by the present state of the world, that I just didn’t have a satisfactory answer for my kids.
I realised that if I’m feeling helpless, imagine how scary this must be for our little ones, who unlike any generation before them are completely tapped into what’s happening locally and globally. I felt completely unequipped to support them through this. How do I reassure them and provide comfort during these uncertain times? How can I help them make sense of the constant challenges and battles that the world has been experiencing over the past few years? How do I help deal with the growing anxiety that things are not ok?
I started searching for advice, for tools or for anything that would help me support them better, and I came across the brilliant Paediatric Occupational Therapist Deb Hopper. Deb is incredibly generous with her advice, providing all sorts of tools and support materials for parents. In her most recent podcast ‘Managing Anxiety when bad things Happen’ Deb shared her top tips for helping the whole family manage anxiety over world events. I personally found it so helpful, relevant and powerful that I had to share it with this lovely community;
Turn off the TV. Whilst it’s good to be informed, TV can be a constant source of stress and concern. Children are especially affected by the news, so limiting TV time is a great solution.
Take some action. Do something to help. Contributing to a cause is a great way to help your child refocus on something beside their worries. For example fundraising for flood victims or getting involved in a charity for the victims of war.
Replace the news with something positive. Replace TV with a documentary or good news story about someone doing something good in the world. Laughter may be the last thing on your mind, but is a great way to make you feel good.
Get moving. Exercise is one of the best ways to manage anxiety. It stimulates the release of our feel good hormones and drives away the blues. Encourage your child to get outside and play, walk the dog or go for a bike ride together.
Do something together and provide a listening ear. Provide an opportunity for them to open up to you. Make something, play a game or go for a walk. Whilst spending this time together look for openings to start a conversation about what is on their mind.
Spend some time in nature. Nature is wonderfully soothing and healing.
Limit Social Media exposure. This is another avenue for stress and anxiety, especially for older children. Set some rules, time limits or particular sites and be prepared to stand your ground if met with resistance. Replacing screen time with family time or exercise is a great way to overcome resistance.
Deb also shares how to manage anxiety when a loved one is in danger. It’s a great discussion right now given how close to home a lot of these issues are.
I love how Deb gives practical advice on healthy ways to model being ok with our own anxiety. Her tips to help the whole family with the worries go beyond my summary above and are well worth a listen. Click here to access the full podcast episode
If you’d like to know more about how to support your child or other family members who suffer from anxiety or are challenged with the world right now, head over to Deb’s websitehttps://www.lifeskills4kids.com.au/ where you can find more useful tips and helpful resources.