Anxiety During a National Emergency - Harbor School

Anxiety During a National Emergency

anxiety during an national emergency

As the news about COVID-19 gets more alarming every day, it is understandable that everyone is feeling anxious right now. With schools closed, special needs children are missing their normal routines and caregivers are faced with the overwhelming task of helping children make sense of what is happening. Our children are looking to us for guidance on how to react to stressful events. They will naturally react to and follow our reactions. This is an opportunity for us to model problem-solving, flexibility, and compassion as we all work through our new daily challenges. These tips from the National Association of School Psychologists can help.

Stay calm, listen, and offer reassurance

  • Be aware of how you talk about COVID-19. Your discussion about COVID-19 can increase or decrease your child's fear. If true, remind your child that your family is healthy, and you are going to do everything within your power to keep loved ones safe and well. Carefully listen or have them draw or write out their thoughts and feelings and respond with truth and reassurance.
  • Explain social distancing. Tell your child that your family is following the guidelines of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which include social distancing. Social distancing means staying away from others until the risk of contracting COVID-19 is under control. Explain that while we don't know how long it will take to "flatten the curve" to reduce the number of those infected, we do know that we must follow the guidelines of health experts to do our part.
  • Demonstrate deep breathing. Deep breathing is a valuable tool for calming the nervous system. Take slow, deep breaths with your children.Focus on the positive. Celebrate having more time to spend as a family. Make it as fun as possible. Do family projects. Sing, dance, laugh, and go outside, if possible, to connect with nature and get needed exercise.
  • Focus on the positive. Celebrate having more time to spend as a family. Make it as fun as possible. Do family projects. Sing, dance, laugh, and go outside, if possible, to connect with nature and get needed exercise.
  • Maintain a daily routine. Keeping a regular schedule provides a sense of control, predictability, calm, and well-being.
  • Offer lots of love and affection.

?Monitor television viewing and social media

  • Parents/guardians should monitor television, internet, and social media viewing—both for themselves and their children. Watching continual updates on COVID-19 may increase fear and anxiety.

Take time to talk honestly and accurately

  • Let your children's questions guide you. Answer their questions truthfully, but don't offer unnecessary details or facts. Younger children absorb scary information in waves. They ask questions, listen, play, and then repeat the cycle.
  • Explain simple safety steps. Tell your children how to protect themselves from this disease. Help them to understand the importance of hand washing and not touching their faces. Children always feel empowered if they can control some aspects of their life. A sense of control reduces fear.
  • Correct misinformation. Children often imagine situations worse than reality. Offering developmentally appropriate facts can reduce fears. Provide brief, simple information that balances COVID-19 facts with appropriate reassurances that adults are there to help keep them healthy and to take care of them if they do get sick.

Stay connected to school

  • Locate the school’s learning resources. Stay in regular contact with your child’s teachers and school staff. Find out how the school is communicating with families and students. Be sure to read any communications you receive.

Be aware of your children's mental health

  • Anxiety is normal during this time, but some children may have risk factors for more intense reactions, including severe anxiety, depression, and suicidal behaviors. Caregivers should contact a professional if children exhibit significant changes in behavior for more than 2 weeks. Behaviors to look out for include: irritability, aggressiveness, clinginess, nightmares, physical complaints, school avoidance, poor concentration, and withdrawal from activities and friends.
  • Your children are looking to you for stability and security. If you project fear or worry, they will sense it and react to it. But if you stay calm, providing honest reassurance and hope, it can help them feel more safe and confident that everything will be okay. Without minimizing the very real challenges your family might be facing, let the children know that they can rely on you for strength.

erik glazer principal harbor school

Harbor School a private special education school in Monmouth County, New Jersey

Our mission at Harbor School is to help all of our special needs students with learning, social, language, behavioral, and other disabilities. Our highly skilled staff are committed daily to helping each student reach their full potential.

We would be more than happy to discuss your child's specific needs and challenges, so please call us at 732.544.9394, or request a tour at Harbor School in Eatontown, NJ. We are located just minutes off of the Garden State Parkway at exit 105 and conveniently located off of Route 35 and Route 36 in Monmouth County, NJ.

Erik Glazner, 
Principal-Harbor School, Eatontown, NJ