Parenting Through COVID

By David Groves: Psychologist

COVID-19 has been with us for over a year now, and for many of us, adjusting to a new way of life has not been easy. Children have been affected in many ways by COVID – we at Breakthrough Psychology have noticed a particular uptick in children presenting with symptoms of anxiety.

So what can you do to support your child during this time?

I recently completed training to deliver the Cool Kids Anxiety Program, so I thought I would share some of those strategies. These are derived from Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), which is widely regarded to be the first-choice treatment for anxiety in children.

Challenge Anxious Thoughts

When we face something threatening, it is natural for our mind to go straight to the worst-case scenario. Sometimes this tendency can really help us – imagine if the world leaders had believed from the outset that COVID would be a global disaster! They might have acted sooner and controlled the virus.

However, most of the time, the worst-case scenario does not come true.

But in CBT, we learn to put on our detective hat and investigate whether these thoughts are likely to come true. Some questions you could ask your child include:

  • What are the facts?
  • What else could happen?
  • What is most likely to happen?
  • What has happened to others in this situation?
  • What would you do if the worst did happen? Could you cope?

Sometimes after looking at the facts, it becomes clear that the feared situation is extremely unlikely. Or, it becomes clear that they actually could cope, if the worst happened.

Challenge Avoidance

Sometimes the best way to beat anxiety is to face your fear. If you were afraid of heights, for example, and you never went up to the top of a tall building, or never went walking in the Blue Mountains, you would never have a chance to face your fear, and learn that heights aren’t as scary as you thought they were.

So, the answer is to face your fear! Parents can help their child face their fears by giving them opportunities to encounter the things that scare them. Usually this would be done in small steps.

Do it with a Psychologist

All these strategies are best learned and practiced in collaboration with a psychologist, who can assess your child and suggest the best treatment.

There are many other strategies that children find useful that your psychologist can help with too – like slow breathing, mindfulness, and “worry surfing”.

Don’t hesitate to contact us at Breakthrough Psychology Practice if you would like to know more about anxiety, and the Cool Kids Program. The program can be run in groups as well as individually.