“How I’m Navigating Pandemic Fears with My Anxious Child”
In this time of nonstop news of a global pandemic hitting home, being the parent of an anxious child with ADHD requires a whole host of superhuman abilities — not the least of which is looking on the bright side. Here is how we are maintaining a sense of normalcy during these uncertain times.
Without exception lately, I wake up in the middle of the night, my mind filled with worries. As the parent of a child with significant learning differences, I worry on a daily basis about how she will one day succeed in the real world given her delays due to auditory processing disorder, dyscalculia, and ADHD. As if that weren’t enough, now we’re living through a pandemic — and I can barely sleep at all.
Though socially isolated, I’m not alone. I’ve connected with close friends — and some distant ones — in recent days to check in on how we’re coping. Some are shielding their thoughts with food and drink; others are binge-watching shows. Some have only a “slightly concerned” attitude while others are having legitimate panic attacks. The truth is, we all need a release from the buildup taking place in our heads — and in our kids.
My daughter’s school district has elected to close for at least two weeks while remote instruction is provided. She is in middle school, so this approach should be manageable. However, I can sense she is stressed about the situation overall.
How I’m Keeping Calm & Easing My Anxious Child’s Worries
I’m trying to ease her worries at home in the following ways:
Each day at the breakfast table, I ask my daughter if she has any questions about what’s going on. This gives her a chance to express any new fears or to share things she may have heard on TV or online. In turn, this morning ritual gives me a chance to gauge her thought process.
Keeping It Real
I only share with my daughter what I believe to be the facts about the respiratory disease, such as official reports from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. I am honest and open about what is happening and I avoid fear-mongering. I explain that I don’t have all the answers — that this is a new experience for all of us, but that we are lucky to have so many expert scientists, doctors, and leaders working diligently to stop the respiratory illness from spreading. By being transparent, I am hoping she feels more like she is “in the know” and, more importantly, “in control.”
Focusing on Rescheduling Rather than Canceling
The pandemic is taking a toll not just on education and the economy, but also on the fun things such as movies, concerts, sports, and vacations. It has not been easy to share with my daughter that yet another activity has been canceled. But I am quick to remind her that rescheduling is easy and that when everything calms down, we will get right back into the groove of our social lives. I also point out to her that there are ways to have fun that don’t involve a mall or movie theater (see below).
In an effort to avoid crowds and busy spaces, we are planning a few outdoor adventures. Nature walks and hikes will not only provide exercise, but also keep my daughter from going stir-crazy. And, with the spring weather popping up, having some additional free time to explore new trails — and enjoy a picnic — is just about perfect!
Virtual Hangouts and Game Nights
Since in-person social gatherings are off the table, I am encouraging my daughter to stay connected to her friends through online gaming, FaceTime chats, and Google Hangouts. When she agonizes that she “will never see my friends again,” I remind her that the current situation is temporary, just like an extended snow day or an extra-long spring break. And opening up our boardgame and puzzle closet — something I admit we don’t indulge in very often — has brought some excitement into the house. Who doesn’t love a little competition when we add gummy bears and chips to the game table?
10 Minutes of Nightly Mindfulness
Several mobile apps offer soothing nature sounds and guided meditations. My daughter and I do this together every evening to wind down and reset while also sharing what we’re grateful for.
At the end of the day, it’s all about maintaining a sense of normalcy and routine. The entire world is facing uncharted waters, and this can be scary, but it also can be a learning experience in which we try new things and grow. Even though my own fight-or-flight response may be in overdrive, I’m trying to make sure my daughter’s remains low key.
Updated on March 26, 2020