Skip Navigation

News

 
At Springmont, we’re proud of our school and like share the accomplishments of our students, alumni, faculty and staff. Here you’ll find information about Springmont including recent school news, articles about our curriculum and other interesting items.  For additional press or media information, please contact Julie Strickland jstrickland@springmont.com or 404.252.3910.

Back

Helping Children Cope with COVID...again

January 05, 2022
By Ann Van Buskirk, School Counselor

The Omicron surge is triggering a new round of COVID-induced anxiety, exhaustion, and uncertainty. With increased rates of transmissibility and breakthrough infections, it is understandable that this new wave is creating a sort of PTSD response in many children and adults, as people flashback to the traumatic memories of the beginning of the pandemic nearly 2 years ago. Just when we thought we had seen the worst of things, there is a feeling of “oh no, here we go again.”

According to mental health professionals, the increase in cases during the recent winter holidays may have exacerbated feelings of anxiety or sadness. Holidays often trigger memories of loved ones who have passed, and a new variant may add to anxiety if there is worry about losing more loved ones. With vaccinations, many of us had hoped for a more enjoyable holiday season with less worry about travel, fewer masks, and a brighter outlook for the new year. According to Dr. Leela Magavi, psychiatrist and Regional Medical Director for Mindpath Health, “many individuals perceive the holidays as a new beginning, so the new variant can feel like a regression.”

School closures around the metro area, rising hospital rates for children, and the lack of vaccinations for those under 5, as well as the ever-changing forms of COVID, create a sense of uncertainty regarding the future. If this causes you distress, you are not alone. As humans, we are hard-wired to guard against the possible dangers that come with uncertainty and to seek control. While this is very helpful when assessing potential physical threats (choosing not to walk down a dark alley alone, wearing protective boots when hiking where snakes are known to be in abundance), the threats associated with COVID are often unknown and beyond our control, yet they stimulate the amygdala to react just as if we were confronted with physical danger.

Research shows that uncertainty is felt by children as young as 20 months and that prolonged uncertainty increases anxiety and distress. Most children, particularly those under the age of 12, do not have the coping skills to manage the uncertainty they have experienced over the last two years and look to trusted adults for help. You may be noticing increased anxiety, irritability, forgetfulness, physical symptoms, or an increased need for attention in your child and wonder, how can I as a parent help? 

Here are some research-based tips – reminders of things that most of us already know and do but may forget about in moments of stress:

  • Remind our kids (and ourselves) that it is completely normal to be worried, even as health professionals share that it is likely Omicron is less severe in how it may be experienced by most children and adults. It can be comforting to know that most people are anxious right now.
  • All children, particularly Toddlers and Primary students, are reassured by a calm presence who acknowledges what is happening. For example, parents may comment that “It seems different to eat outside when it’s cold – that’s a way we can help keep ourselves healthy,” when discussing new routines with their children. Simple explanations can reassure children that we notice the changes AND that those changes can lead to a greater good.
  • Help children of all ages give names to their feelings. Creative activities such as asking children to draw a picture of what they are feeling can be helpful in providing space for children to express themselves and gain greater mastery of their emotions while also giving adults a window into what the child may be experiencing. 
  • Model language that includes emotions. “I was feeling scared about Omicron, and it helped me feel less anxious when I realized that wearing better masks will help keep us healthy.”   
  • Continue routines that are comforting and provide a sense of greater control.
  • Help children meditate using smooth stones or other items of visual focus (see Mindfulness for Children at annakaharris.com).
  • Plan restorative and enjoyable activities, including outdoor walks, animal time, and sensory-soothing activities.
  • Listen carefully. The most important aspect of parenting is the relationship you have with your child. Focus on enjoying the relationship, taking time to play and connect, lowering your expectations on productivity and achievement. Now is the time to be gentle with ourselves.
  • Recognize signs that you are stressed (headache, tight chest and throat, neck pain) and attend to your physical symptoms. Your body is deserving of loving care, rest, and restoration. A recent poll by the American Association of Psychiatrists found that parents are among the groups most impacted by the ongoing pandemic, with 86% reporting significant increases in stress.
  • Try to avoid catastrophizing (assuming the very worst outcome) or fortune telling (predicting the future). If possible, replace those thoughts with “this will take time” or “I tried this, and it worked before – we can try again tomorrow.”  Try to let go of previous standards of productivity, socializing, parenting, and being. Be as understanding and kind to yourself as you would be to your best friend, favorite aunt, or youngest child.
  • Remember that “calm” is contagious. Do the things necessary to preserve your energy, even if they may seem selfish, and continue to reach out to those you trust. Remind yourself of the value of what you are doing and how much you, as a caring adult, matter. Breathe. Offer help when you can and ask for help when you need it. Omicron is disappointing, we are tired, and we are strong. We will get through this together, and things will be better.

Follow Us on Facebook!