The outbreak of COVID-19 is stressful for many people, and children are certainly not immune to the anxiety. It is normal to feel stressed about the unknowns and the future. However, when anxiety gets too high it can have a negative impact on the brain and the body. Children can feel paralyzed and helpless. Consequently, the more knowledgeable we are in helping children cope with their anxiety, the more likely they will have a positive outcome.
At Sutton Psychology Services we provide therapy to individuals with anxiety living in the greater Tampa Bay Area. The following is a brief overview of how anxiety may present in children as well as some resources that may be helpful in your search for help for your child.
What does anxiety look like in children?
- Extreme reactions to what appear to be minor events/situations
- Tics (commonly facial tics)
- Repetitive behaviors
- Excessive discussion of topics
- Tantrums (possibly aggression)
- Reassurance seeking (am I going to be okay?)
- The most effective treatment approaches for children with anxiety:
- Behavioral: Reward systems, systematic exposure to the feared stimulus, coping strategies (calming corner, blowing balloons, music, Progressive Muscle Relaxation, etc.)
- Cognitive: Recognizing and understanding feelings (how thoughts are directly related to feelings and behavior) and then changing the maladaptive thoughts.
- Coping Cat (Phillip C. Kendall, Ph.D., ABPP and Kristina A. Hedtke, M.A.) is an effective treatment program that incorporates all of the above strategies. This treatment is utilized by mental health professionals and can be individual or group formats. Dr. Zern offers the Coping Cat to individuals both in-office and via telehealth.
- Recommended books for children with various types of anxiety
Healing Days: A Guide for Kids Who Have Experienced Trauma, By Straus, Susan Farber
What to Do When Your Brain Gets Stuck: A Kid’s Guide to Overcoming OCD Huebner, Dawn
What to Do When You Worry Too Much: A Kid’s Guide to Overcoming Anxiety, By Huebner, Dawn
Cat’s Got Your Tongue? A Story for Children Afraid to Speak, By Schaefer, Charles E.
- Helpful online articles
Talking to Kids About the Coronavirus Crisis by Rachel Ehmke
How to Ease Children’s Anxiety About COVID-19 by Dawn O’Malley, Psy. D.