Managing you and your children’s anxiety

Amanda Kirby

Professor Amanda Kirby has been delivering services for more than 25 years to families who have children with Dyslexia, Dyspraxia (DCD), ADHD, speech and language challenges and Autism. She has neurodiverse children and grandchildren. 

She is the CEO of Do-IT Solutions. Do-IT Solutions have developed neurodiversity apps, e-learning training resources and software to provide practical support for children and adults.

 

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This is an extraordinary time for everyone. For parents with children of all ages, it also means balancing children’s needs and their wellbeing alongside your own.

Juggling home working and trying to support children’s learning means there is a fine line between coping and feeling overwhelmed. Anxiety can come along in waves when you are least expecting it.

Every child, depending on their age, will also be trying to cope with their new reality with no timelines or certainty on the horizon. Some will be able to verbalise this, while others may become angry, irritable or withdrawn. They will certainly pick up on your concerns and behaviours. 

Why do we feel anxious? 

This may be due to:

  • Changes in your routines
  • Lack of control over choices
  • Fear about the wellbeing of others
  • Uncertainty about the future (and the present!)

At the moment we have all of these things going on. 

 


One way of thinking about this is seeing ourselves as a ‘bucket’ with a finite capacity for coping. Varying elements in our lives fill up the bucket, and it can fill at different rates.

If our bucket becomes too full and overflows, we then feel overwhelmed. 

In normal circumstances we would find ways of coping by reducing the level in the bucket which could be achieved, for example, by taking exercise, meeting friends, or talking to others. At the moment there is a lot flowing in but less choice of how we empty the bucket! By understanding your own anxieties, you can help your children as well as yourself.

What helps if you feel anxious?

  • F = Focus on what’s in your control 

                  You can’t control everything, but you can control what is going on in your home and with your children.

  • A = Acknowledge your thoughts and feelings

                  Allow yourself to recognise when you feel anxious.

  • C = Come back into your body

                  Stand up or press feet to the floor; or place your hands on a chair.

                  Take some slow and deep breaths.

  • E = Engage in what you’re doing

                  Be present. Look at what is in front of you such as your hands?

By being more relaxed with your children, and your children sensing this, they will also be less anxious too.

Tops tips:

  • Be kind to yourself - For most of us we are learning a new ‘normal’. We are trying to work and be at home all at the same time in really strange circumstances.
  • Start by mapping out the day - Be realistic in what you can achieve and start by being kind to yourself.  You may need to plan your work and your children’s time. Unless you are a teacher – you are not a teacher! 
  • Try not to over-organise your day but have some structure - If you don’t achieve everything you will just feel you have failed. Let your children put the plan together. 
  • Take the opportunities for informal learning with your children while watching a film, making a meal, gardening, doing chores.
  • Build in achievable rewards - These can be a mix of small ones (more easily achievable) and bigger ones that can be gained.Let your children help with chores every day (this also provides structure) and provide them with a menu of activities, so they can decide how many rewards they get when they engage in this.
  • Avoid talking about Covid19, watching the news and checking on your phone in front of your children all the time. Don’t start catastrophising as this can easily spiral your feelings out of control. Focus on what you can control.
  • Connect with family and friends - Can you arrange a virtual play date?
  • Try to reduce arguments by holding regular family meetings especially if you have teens in the house. Create times and ways to discuss worries with your children. Sometimes it can be easier talking about worries when you are not directly doing so.
  • Set time each day to do fun stuff together. 
  • Create regular times for exercise - It will help with sleep and mood too.

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