Helping Your Kids Reduce Anxiety During Covid 19 Situation

Helping Your Kids Reduce Anxiety During the Covid 19 Situation

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We are currently living in a time that is unsettling. We do not know what tomorrow will look like, if we will have jobs, if we can pay bills, if school will finish this year, etc. I am beginning to notice a change in our kids as well with their anxiety raising.

Many kids are enjoying this long break from school. I predict in a few weeks they will all be bored after being stuck home, not going anywhere, and not spending time with friends. I also am anticipating many kids having high anxiety as parents and caregivers begin to experience financial strain, job loss, changes in jobs, etc.

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So what can you do as a parent or caregiver to support you kids?

  • Check in with them daily to see what they are thinking and feeling.
  • Remind your kids this situation is a grown-up problem, and they should just focus on them being a kid, doing their expectations, and enjoying a break from school.
  • Share with your kids any changes that are going to happen, including you working from home, the loss of a job, changes in finances, etc. Do not do this to raise their anxiety, but rather remind them you as the grown up have decisions to make to continue to support the family.
  • Explain to your kids the expectations each day that they have, i.e. chores, schoolwork, etc. Keep them structured with fun free time built in!
  • Be open and honest with them (but keep it age appropriate) about the global situation with Covid 19. Use this as an opportunity to teach them about global response, economy, health issues, sanitation of home and work area, etc.
  • If your child has a lot of anxiety, deal with it! Please do not let it go untreated. Again, support your child with their emotions, validate how they are feeling, remind them grown-ups are dealing with this situation, remind them they are safe at home, and if needed, seek out medical support with counseling and/or medication.
  • Many therapists and doctors are now offering temporary telehealth sessions for therapy and medical appointments. Reach out to those professionals for more support for your child.
  • Likely you as a parent or caregiver have high anxiety right now too, be careful to not show this to your kids. Keep this between you and other grown-ups in your life. Kids can often pick up on the anxiety from adults; show them your happiness, happy thoughts, etc!

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Hang in there! This is a crazy time but positive can come out of this situation. Enjoy the extra time you have with your family right now and teach them the board games we played growing up that they have never experienced! Find fun things at home to do, take time to do self-care, and most of all, just laugh and be silly with your kids!

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Jen Edwards, LMHC

Owner and Director of Beautiful Autism

Autism in the New School Year

Autism in the New School Year

A friend of mine recently told me, “You said August and September were going to be difficult months; you were right.” The new school year is always a challenge for kids on the Spectrum. New schools, new teachers, new rules, new classmates, new schedules and routines. Generally it takes 6-8 weeks for kids to acclimate to the new year and feel settled.

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How Can I Make This Better?

Try to predict how your child is going to react to certain things; plan ahead. For example, if I know my son is having a change in his school schedule (such as an assembly), I need to explain the day before and the morning of to remind him and answer any questions. One nice thing about Autism is it is generally predictable once you know and understand your child. We are able to predict how our son will handle certain things and can then prepare accordingly.

Now certainly we are not always 100% accurate, and often he surprises us with handling things well, or on occasion not well. But being prepared and thinking ahead has made our lives SOO much easier.

Keep in Communication

Talk often to your child’s teachers and workers. I probably email my son’s Special Education team at least 3 times a week. I email his teacher a couple times a week. I want to know what is going on and how things are going for him. I am proactive in following through with his behavior at school and finding links to problems.

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Talk often to any therapists your child has, especially right before a session so they know what is going on and how to work with them.

And of course, talk with your kiddo! Find out what is bothering them. Ask them how YOU can help them. Talk about your expectations. Be supportive of your child and communicate daily your love!

The Challenging Behavior- DAILY!

Like I always say, keep calm. Fight the battles that are worth fighting. You will need to find the balance between what is worth focusing on and what behaviors you can ignore. This is not easy and often stressful. On the one hand, you do not want your child getting away with everything, but you want some peace in your home as well.

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Try to find the links between the challenging behaviors. Many times there are no links to be found; sometimes you find links in the most peculiar places! Use a lot of positive rewards. For example, when my son comes home with no sad faces on his behavior chart, he will get a “good boy treat” and often Mommy partakes in a “good mommy treat” too!

Use any close family and friends to help you! Find someone you can safely “vent” to and avoid venting in front of your child. We all need to be able to talk openly at times about our struggles. If you do not have that safe person, I encourage you to find someone quickly! You might want to have someone that you can talk with on the phone or face-to-face versus texting/email, etc. Pastors, social workers, and counselors are some examples of safe people if you do not have family or friends.

Final Thoughts

Hang in there! Hopefully by the holidays your child is more calm and confident in his/her situation. Then they get the nice holiday break and have to start all over again come January!

Use picture schedules or written schedules when necessary and helpful. Find other tools that will help your child succeed.

Remember, you are called to be parents/workers with this beautiful child, and you will become qualified!

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Autism and Terrible Behavior

The Terrible Behaviors

                My heart broke this week.  Why is he acting out so much?  My son’s behavior was horrible this week.  I cried, I got angry, I thought endlessly, and I prayed.  There seemed to be no common thread to this problem.  The school could not figure out why the physical aggression was so intense.  He was hitting other students for no reason and throwing chairs.  Really?  Is this MY son?

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Take a Breath… Be Calm

                We can analyze the situation all we want until we go stir crazy.  We can email teachers and demand answers.  We can talk to other people and get feedback.  The main thing to keep in mind: Our reaction can make or break the situation.  Overreaction can be devastating and under reaction can prolong the situation.  So where is that fine line of boundaries?

                It would be so nice if we had a manual that came with the delivery of our children.  Chapter 5: How to Handle Physical Aggression at 5 Years Old.  But we do not get manuals; we only get advice from past experiences.  So we take advice and sometimes it is great and often it is not applicable to the situation.  And we continue to search for the boundaries.

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                First, stay calm.  Look over the whole situation, take notes, and talk openly with trusted people who will listen and not offer advice right away.  Stay in constant communication with teachers, therapists, and other individuals working with your child.  Look for common threads in both positive and negative behaviors.  Talk with your child and try to get reasons and understanding from his/her perspective.  But I warn you, be gentle and patient while talking with your child; do not raise your voice or threaten with demands and punishment.  Try to understand your child while you listen to him/her.  Explain it is safe to open up to you.  Remember, you want answers- you are not there to get answers for punishment and discipline.  You want to help your child succeed!

Finding Answers, Then What?

                When you get some answers, even if they do not make sense, communicate with the other individuals involved with your child.  Together you can all begin to put the pieces together.  Continue to stay calm and understanding of your child.  Forgive your child and tell your child you still love him/her.  Follow through with communication.  Continue seeking knowledge and understanding while getting help for the problematic behaviors.

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Possible Reasons for Disruptive Behavior

                Here are some possible explanations for difficult behavior:

Too much stimulation

Changes in routine

Illness or pain

Not enough sleep

Confusion about something

Emotional imbalance

Unable to cope with anxiety

Disappointment

                Remember, every child is different.  Your child’s difficult behavior may be related to something not on this list.  These are just common ones I often see in Autism (and typically developing children too).

                Please share with me any other thoughts or things your child struggles with.  If you find yourself at a loss of what to do, seek help through myself or another professional.  Meanwhile, hang in there fellow parents and professionals!  I understand your struggles and frustrations.

                After all the emotional struggles this last week with my son, we took him to the dentist only to discover his six year molars were pushing through.  No wonder he has been deregulated!  So now we are working on helping him to communicate with us when he is in pain somewhere so we can help him. And afterwards, we had some “alternative medicine” at Cold Stone!

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                Sometimes it feels like we move one step forward and then suddenly two steps back with our children on the Spectrum.  Keep staying calm and searching for answers.  Overall you are moving in the forward direction in his/her life.  It may not always seem like it, but hang in there!

Contact Information

Jen Edwards

jen@voyagescounseling.com

720-258-6392