Some days I do not mind this self-quarantine at all. My tween has come to love movie nights and engaging with us now that he knows true boredom. Then there are days I worry. I worry will he be ready to jump right in to school come fall as a 7th grader. I worry as much more time goes by not seeing his friends he’ll decide being a lone or losing that social butterfly effect he carries will fade.
For many families the anxiety is constant with this change of life especially on kids with some special needs. Staying home, not heading out as often is a lonely feeling.
The Following are Tips by Natalia Perez -Licensed Mental Health Counselor and Board Certified Behavior Analyst, is the founder of Florida Family Support, a therapy practice dedicated to children and teenagers with Autism and other disabilities and their families to Ease Anxiety in Children (And You!) During the Stay at Home Order:
1. Recognize the signs. Research shows that kids present their anxiety in different ways depending on age. Know what to look for.
- For example, preschool-age kids may have a change in appetite; more temper tantrums, whining, or clinging behaviors; loss of bladder/bowl control; fear of being along; and/or speech difficulties.
- Kids ages 6-12, meanwhile, may show irritability, whining, aggressive behavior; clinging and nightmares; sleep/appetite disturbance; physical symptoms (headaches, stomachaches); and withdrawal from peers.
- And finally, adolescents (kids age 13-18) may present their anxiety with physical symptoms (headaches, rashes, etc.); sleep/appetite disturbance; agitation or decrease in energy, apathy; isolating from peers and loved ones; concerns about stigma and injustices; and avoiding/cutting school.
2. Everyone is doing their best. Try to remember that everyone is doing their very best during this time. It’s unnavigated waters. Many kiddos with social anxiety are likely loving their new normal for the time being. In order to do our part and keep our social distance, we cannot be social in a way that we have been before.
3. Be honest. Explain to your kids honestly why we have to be home and can’t have play dates, but keep the message as kid-friendly as possible. We want our children to be educated without instilling fear. Think through what you can tell your kids, use social stories and resources and explain the positive outcomes of doing our part by staying home!
4. Turn off the screens. Try to limit the amount of news and information that you are allowing into your home. With that being said, there are a number of educational programs and games available for tablets and many companies are waving membership fees.
5. Activities should be broken down into small parts. Remember to meet your child where they are. Your child may maintain focus for 5 minutes or 45 minutes, and this may vary per activity. Use timers to help your child understand the amount of time their focus is needed.
6. Use online platforms to help your kids connect with friends. Contact a parent and set up a virtual “play date.” These meetings can be brief, but it’s helpful to keep some kind of face to face contact throughout this time.
7. Support your family. Utilize this time to support each other within the family by scheduling family game night, family activities, or family dance parties! By doing this, you can allow everyone in the family to have fun and relieve anxiety at the same time!