3 Ways to Help Kids Adjust to the New Baseline of Anxiety and Stress

3 Ways to Help Kids Adjust to the New Baseline of Anxiety and Stress

Your own knowledge and self-care can be the best way to help kids through times of uncertainty.

Having lived through two years of pandemic, it can seem like we’ve adapted to a new baseline level of stress and anxiety — as if we’ve come to terms with stress and anxiety to the point they don’t really affect us anymore. Let me tell you, this is the opposite of the truth. Rather than adjusting to a higher baseline level of stress and anxiety, most of us are in anxiety denial. The problem with anxiety denial is it can only last so long. For many of us — and especially for kids — the clock is ticking on anxiety burnout. How much longer do you think YOU can last before you reach the end of your ability to pretend like everything is okay? How long do you think your kids can hold it together for school and activities and friendships?

The problem is, despite how long or short it seems like you will be able to last, the fact is you and yours may not have the luxury of choosing how long you can keep the train on the tracks. How long you have to last may depend on how long the pandemic and other societal challenges force you to last…which may be a long, long time.

I like to think that I can keep things in perspective, both for myself and for my kids, but after getting home from another long day and immediately finding myself on my second bowl of ice cream, I decided that perspective could no longer a passive thing — it wasn’t something that just happened with a level head. Instead, perspective at a time like this takes WORK. It’s not just coasting along without freaking out — the ability to stay centered requires proactively creating a climate of wellness. Here are three things you can do to support yourself and others when Coronavirus is causing a hum of anxiety all around you:


When you take care of yourself, you can be present to support the people around you. Be sure to take time to eat well, relax, exercise — whatever you need to do to keep your nervous system in tip top shape! The flip side is also true: Try to avoid self-medicating in ways that you KNOW are counterproductive. For example, reaching for the ice cream probably wasn’t my best choice because when I finished my second bowl, I felt worse than before I started eating. We all know what REALLY works for our own self-care. When the world is chaotic, taking the right steps to keep your body calm and functioning can help to keep your mind calm and functioning as well.

Knowledge is Power

Allow yourself time and space to research what is happening, but also decide on a time to stop. In other words, research for a set amount of time, take a deep breath and move on with your day. If your kids or students ask questions about coronavirus or about changes they see in the world, answer their questions directly and succinctly. If you hear kids talking about it, move closer and help support the conversation. For example, kids may get scared and start to have catastrophic thinking, for example, “A person with the virus died in my county., my family is going to get sick. Someone in my family is going to die.” When you start to hear kids (or adults) predicting catastrophies, interrupt this thinking. You might say something like, “I heard you say that someone close to us died, I understand why that is scary. What can you do to keep yourself and your family healthy?”

Mirror Neurons!

We are all emotional sponges, especially children. Evolutionarily, children needed to understand how adults were feeling in order to survive and to do this, humans developed a physiological system of mirror neurons. Literally, these mirror neurons help humans feel the emotions of the people around them. This means that kids are hardwired to sense your fear and anxiety. Kids feel adults’ emotions but don’t know why. Think about that. It is very scary to be afraid and not understand why. This brings me back to the first tip in this list: Self-care! By de-escalating yourself, you can help deescalate the young people in your life.

Uncertainty is scary, in large part because we don’t know whether or not to be scared! The waiting can be awful. Equipping yourself with knowledge can reduce (but not eliminate…) this uncertainty. And taking care of yourself can make you feel more able to handle whatever comes along. Importantly, your own knowledge and self-care can be the best way to help kids through times of uncertainty, be it coronavirus or whatever crisis the uncertain future brings.