HEALTH PLUS MEDICAL CONSULTANT
COVID-19 has tested our emotional grappling as adults, but how has it affected our students, especially those preparing for a new school term or receiving results from SEA exams? Unfortunately, COVID-19 has amplified the mental strain students experience, more so within the “digital” academic walls of school. Parents may not be familiar with how to help their children cope, if they themselves are having a difficult time adjusting and coping to the new reality which COVID-19 presents.
According to a recent National Survey of Children’s Health, CDC stated that
• Approximately 4.4 million children aged three-17 years have been diagnosed with anxiety related disorders.
• Approximately 1.9 million children aged three-17 years have been diagnosed with depression.
Anxiety worsens in students as they may not always communicate their worry or fears directly to their parents.
It is well documented that parents miss the symptoms when they themselves are enveloped in their daily struggles and are not open-minded to notice short-term behavioural changes.
These symptoms such as irritability, mood swings, acting out, changes in sleep patterns, can be pertinent hints of a “stressed out student”. Others have trouble completing assignments or concentrating on exams. Some adolescents have physical effects, including stomach aches, headaches, asthmatic events, skin allergies, alopecia or disruptions in their menstrual cycles.
Many anxious students keep their worries to themselves and thus, the symptoms are missed or deteriorate into depression.
Parents | Teachers | Caregivers, here are a few beneficial strategies to help your students conquer these anxieties.
1. Be an intentional listener.
Be available to just listen and find out what is on their minds. Listen to understand their concerns. As you listen to their stories of the day's events, be sure to ask what your children think and feel about what is happening. If your adolescent seems to be worried about something, ask about it. Encourage them to put what is bothering them into words. Be willing to explore those emotions and concerns, validating what they feel. Sometimes just sharing the story with you can help lighten their load.
2. Offer reassurance and comfort.
Sometimes when adolescents are worried, what they need most is a parent's reassurance and comfort. It might come in the form of a hug, some heartfelt words, or time spent together.
It helps them to know that, whatever happens, parents will be there with love and support.
3. Show your care and understanding.
Being interested in students’ wellbeing shows they are important to you, too, and helps children feel supported and understood. Reassuring comments can help — but usually only after you've heard your child out.
Say that you understand your adolescent’s feelings and the problem.
4. Keep things in perspective.
Without minimising their feelings, point out that many problems are temporary and solvable, and that there will be better days and other opportunities to try again. Teaching adolescents to keep problems in perspective can lessen their worry and help build strength, tenacity, and the optimism to try again.
Remind your adolescents that whatever happens, things will be okay.
5. Don’t fix everything.
You can help reduce worries by helping your children to learn to deal with challenging situations. When your adolescent tells you about a problem, offer to help come up with a solution together. In most situations, resist the urge to jump in and fix a problem for your child — instead, think it through and come up with possible solutions together. By taking an active role, they learn how to tackle a problem on their own. Problem-solve WITH your children, rather than for them.
Most importantly, keep in mind they mirror what behaviours they observe so the final and most important strategy is:
The most powerful lessons we teach our children are the ones we demonstrate. Sometimes children need parents to show them how to let go of worry rather than dwelling on it. Know when it's time to move on, and help children shift gears. Your response to your own worries, stress and frustrations can go a long way towards teaching your children how to deal with everyday challenges.
Be aware that your own reaction to global events or news affects your children, too. If you express anger and stress about local or global events that are beyond your control, children are likely to react that way too. But if you express your concern by taking a proactive approach to making a positive difference, your children will feel more optimistic and empowered to do the same. Being a role model for your child is possibly the best way of helping your adolescents cope with unnecessary stress, so recognising your own deficits and seeking help if necessary is crucial. The best way to teach resiliency is to model it.