As COVID-19 news relentlessly churns these days, it’s easy for families to be overwhelmed as stress and anxiety wreak havoc in households.
“Every time you’re searching for information you’re basically putting that IV drip of stress into your system,” says Dr. Jenny Yip, a leading parenting expert, author and speaker. “Then you overload your system and it impacts your immune system negatively. And the best thing we can do for ourselves right now is to make sure that our immune system is healthy.”
Dr. Yip urges parents to put extra care into their emotional well-being during these difficult days.
“Children can sense a lot of emotional experiences from adults,” Yip says. “So if you’re giving off a sense of anxiety and stress that’s probably when you will see them be a little bit more defensive and irritable because they’re sensing it from you. So adults have to do the same in terms of taking care of themselves.”
Yip is a Clinical Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at the USC Keck School of Medicine. In 2008, she founded the Renewed Freedom Center – Los Angeles to provide the most advanced treatment for those suffering from OCD and anxiety disorders; and in 2016 she established the Little Thinkers Center – Los Angeles to help children with academic challenges develop the necessary critical and creative thinking skills that build self-confidence and resiliency.
Use these tips from Yip to help you and your families minimize stress and anxiety while traversing these unprecedented times:
Navigating the news: “Watch the news earlier in the day,” says Yip, so it’s not what’s swirling in your mind as your head hits the pillow. “And as soon as you are done watching go and do something pleasant for yourself, whether it’s gardening, or reading a book or spending quality time with your children.”
Spotting signs: Temper tantrums, irritability, anger, frustration and combativeness are all signs that kids are feeling the crush of stress and anxiety. Also be on the lookout for those who have become more withdrawn and are showing less interest in activities they normally enjoy doing.
Focus on the facts: Children are going to have concerns, and it’s important that parents don’t brush those off with that overused ‘everything will be fine’ line. “I definitely would never respond to a child by saying everything will be fine,” Yip says. “Because you are invalidating the child’s experiences if you’re just saying everything will be fine because in the real world you actually don’t know. And kids sense that. So if all you’re doing is giving these kids false reassurance that’s not going to give them the comfort that they need. In fact, it’s more important for you to be able to give them factual information and be able to separate the fact from the emotional severity of it.”
Age-appropriate discussions: “You have to be able to speak at your child’s developmental level,” Yip says. “You have to be able to give kids factual information because if you’re not giving it to them, they’re going to hear it from somewhere else. And the last thing you want is for them to hear information that might not be the whole truth from their peers or off the Internet.”
Check-in conversations: Even though on the surface your child may appear as though they aren’t experiencing any difficulties, Yip advises to check in and have meaningful conversations with them. “I think too often parents are thinking ‘my child is fine, they haven’t expressed any concerns’ but that doesn’t mean they’re not concerned,” she says. “That might just mean that they aren’t comfortable talking about it with you. So it’s really important to check in and let them know that you are available to talk to and when you are offering information make sure it comes in the form that you are just educating your children rather than lecturing, because nobody wants to hear a lecture.”