NORTHWEST ARKANSAS, (KNWA/KFTA) — Looking back on the pandemic this past year, our lives have changed a lot and it’s caused stress for not only adults but children too.
The pandemic has impacted the way kids learn, interact and behave in general. Some children are having a tough time dealing with all of the changes that come with COVID-19.
Stress is a normal human emotional reaction but at high levels it can disrupt your daily activities.
Andy Cooper is a Licensed Professional Counselor and the Owner of Still Waters Family Counseling.
He says stress in children can show up in several ways, in younger kids it can be through tantrums or acts of defiance.
While in older children you may see it in changes in their behavior, performance at school, and changes in their interests, eating or sleeping habits.
Cooper adds children thrive in a structured environment, and changes because of the pandemic can create some challenges.
“They want to know that the world is safe and they get that primarily from mom and dad / maintain a family routine and that’s activities your as a family together to enjoy each other’s presence,” said Cooper.
He says as families approach the end of the school year, they are looking at another transition where the kids will be home and get a break from their class work.
This is a good time for families to prepare for the summer and what that will look like. Check in with your kids and the activities they would like to do. Learn a new skill or explore the outdoors – look for activities that make them feel safe and confident.
Cooper tells us its also important for parents to model healthy behaviors in managing and reducing stress. He says to focus on three things — are you getting enough sleep, are you eating a healthy diet and are you getting enough exercise?
When you prioritize these things in your life, you are in a much better place to manage your stress level and kids are more likely to mimic those healthy behaviors.
Cooper adds the most important thing families can do is to talk to their children about the changes happening. Adding having honest open conversation together can help your children express and get a better understanding of their feelings.
A great time to do this is at the dinner table.
“Just talk to our child about the changes happening in our lives talk to them about COVID – 19 but not in anxious standpoint but from a matter a fact point… everything is stable and secure and we are going to talk about what is going on and address any concerns you have,” said Cooper.
For example, some schools are making changes to their mask requirements – the school year is coming to an end – what will the school year look like next year?
These are all topics you can all talk about and see how your child is feeling about them.
When it comes to reducing stress, he also recommends deep breathing techniques or going out on walks. These are all things you can also do as a family.