Anxiety in the Face of Community Re-opening

Jul 3, 2020

You may have experienced and observed in your child an increase in anxious feelings during the period of being homebound due to Covid-19. I think we’ve all experienced some of that!

With the re-opening of services and businesses, there is a collective sigh of relief, but there can also be a heightened sense of anxiety venturing out into the world, not knowing what to expect and wondering whether we can trust that others are using proper safety protocols. Some children may be afraid to return to “normal” activities for fear of getting sick. Remember, we have just drilled into them for the last 3 months that they need to stay home and away from others so as not to get themselves or others sick!

There are a few things you can do to help your child cope with their anxiety about returning to some of their regular activities and beginning to see others again:

  1. Understand that your child may have real fear. Validate your child’s feelings by saying something such as, “I see that you are worried. I understand.” This validation will help your child begin to calm down.
  2. Gently ask some questions to find out exactly what your child is worried about. “What do you think might happen if you went to __________?” or “What exactly are you worried about if we go to __________________?”
  3. Once you know the exact concerns, you can again validate your child’s feelings, and then help them move into problem solving.
  4. To do this, we might ask a few more questions such as, “What do you think would help you to feel better when we go _______________?” or “What do you think you would need to help you feel safe?”
  5. Our anxiety can spike when we feel a lack of control and we may even feel trapped. Try to help your child feel a greater sense of control. For example, if going to a family gathering, it might help your child to know that if at any time they feel uncomfortable, they can signal you and you will go take a break and discuss. You might even leave.
  6. Knowing exactly what they are going to experience can help children to feel a greater sense of control. Talk to them about where you are going, what the expectations will be, what they might see or encounter.
  7. Practice going on very short outings every once in awhile with your child, before they need to go to appointments so they get used to being out again.
  8. Your child might go places they are required to wear a mask. Take 5 minutes each day to practice wearing a mask so they can build comfort with it before they have to wear it for an outing.
  9. Use a comfort item. Many of the children we work with seem very comfortable doing video therapy, social skills groups and schooling from home. Much of this has to do with the fact they are typically comfortable at home. They have their family around them, as well as favourite stuffies, pets, and other comfort items. When required to leave the comfort of home, we need to think about how we can help them “transition” from home to wherever they are required to go. Think about bringing along a comfort item if possible, to help with this transition.