Relieving Stress and Anxiety of Young Children
This pandemic situation that we are experiencing has affected everyone in so many ways. Many people faced health issues, financial difficulties, or, even worse, the loss of a loved one. Everyone had to remain isolated at home for a long time, missing friends and family. Others lost their jobs, while uncertainty about the future was continuously increasing. All this has caused great stress to all of us, not only adults but also young children.
Children have also been experiencing the same feelings of anxiety, sadness, fear, frustration, anger, or worry as their parents or caretakers. They are probably missing their friends and the school environment after being at home for so long. They might want to go and play outside meeting their friends and be upset that they are not allowed to do that now. In addition, the new remote learning routine can be challenging for some of them to cope with. Taking their classes virtually might seem strange and some might refuse to collaborate. This “new normal” might be confusing for them. There is also the fear that kids can feel about this unprecedented threat. Some might be worrying about getting infected themselves or their loved ones. This situation can significantly increase their stress level, and make them react unusually.
How can you relieve their stress?
Even though the circumstances are difficult, there are still some ways that you can support parents and students dealing with stress and anxiety:
Keep a Regular Routine
Regular routines or schedules are critical stress-reducers that can give children the predictability they need on how to best spend their time. Uncertainty about what comes next only fosters anxiety and fear of the unknown. Routines can make children feel safe and in control. Help the parents to assign specific times for activities such as learning and doing homework, eating, playing, even getting all together for some relaxing time!
It is highly suggested for young children to spend at least 60 minutes per day doing some kind of physical activity. By exercising and involving in movement-based activities, their bodies produce endorphins, which help them feel more relaxed and happier. Staying at home might limit their options for these activities, but try to be creative! Dancing all together, for example, could be a great way to burn some calories while having fun!
There are a number of activities that children can do in order to relax and reduce stress. A suggested one by researchers and therapists is coloring. Painting, mixing colors can instantly relieve tension. Coloring demands their entire focus and eliminates any negative feelings, such as anxiety and anger. It requires eye-hand coordination, which demands their physical concentration and strengthens their fine motor skills. It is a calming activity that promotes mindfulness and increases joy. You can provide your students with coloring sheets or let them create their own ideas!
Establish Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) Practices
Whether you are in the classroom or following remote learning approaches, SEL is essential for young students. Through SEL practices, children understand and manage emotions, set and achieve positive goals, develop social awareness and relationship skills, while making more responsible decisions. Research has shown that a systematic approach to SEL can lead students to social, emotional, and academic growth. Creating a safe and supportive learning environment can set the foundation for achieving every student’s personal and academic goals while dealing with negative emotions.
“The truth is that knowledge is constructive. All learning is relational. Emotion drives attention. And attention drives learning.” Tim Shriver