Our country lost a 14-year-old student to suicide mere months ago. Referencing the Sunday Guardian article, “according to the police report, the student and a relative allegedly argued over his schoolwork before she left the house to purchase food. Upon her return about an hour-and-a-half later, she found him with a bandana wrapped around his neck and tied to a doorknob.” Though months ago, this still devastates my being, even more so now as our country is processing 9,000 students who were told – “They failed or performed badly at the first major exam in their life.” That trauma can have a lifelong impact.
While, COVID-19 has tested our emotional grappling as adults, it has also deeply affected our children. Parents may not be familiar with how to help their children manage, if they themselves are having a difficult time adjusting and coping.
Suicide is the second leading cause of death among young people.
“Despite global progress, one person still dies every 40 seconds from suicide,” said WHO Director-General, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. “Every death is a tragedy for family, friends and colleagues. HOWEVER, SUICIDES ARE PREVENTABLE.”
According to a recent National Survey of Children’s Health, CDC stated that
• ↓Approximately 4.4 million children aged 3-17 years have been diagnosed with anxiety related disorders.
• ↓approximately 1.9 million children aged 3-17 years have been diagnosed with depression.
Anxiety worsens in children 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, or bedwetting, can be pertinent hints of a “stressed out child”. Others have trouble completing assignments or concentrating on exams. Some children have physical effects, including stomach aches, headaches, asthmatic events, skin allergies, alopecia or disruptions in their menstrual cycles.
Many anxious children keep their worries to themselves and thus, the symptoms are missed or deteriorates into depression.
Here are a few helpful strategies to help your children 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 the challenges presented by the exam, be sure to ask about what your kids think and feel about is happening. If your child 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 their emotions with you can help lighten their load.
2. Offer reassurance and comfort.
Sometimes when kids 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 kids to know that, whatever happens, parents will be there with love and support.
3. Show your care and understanding.
Being interested in your child’s concerns shows they are important to you, too, and helps kids feel supported and understood. Reassuring comments can help — but usually only after you’ve heard your child out. Say that you understand your child’s feelings and the problem.
4. Keep things in perspective.
Without minimizing a child’s feelings, point out that many problems are temporary and solvable, and that there will be better days and other opportunities to try again. Teaching kids to keep problems in perspective can lessen their worry and help build strength, tenacity, and the optimism to try again. Remind your kids that whatever happens, things will be OK.
5. Don’t fix everything.
You can help reduce worries by helping kids learn to deal with challenging situations. When your child 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, kids learn how to tackle a problem on their own. Problem-solve with kids, rather than for them.
Most importantly, keep in mind that children mirror what behaviours they observe so the final and most important strategy is:
Sometimes kids need parents to show them how to let go of worry rather than dwelling on it. Know when it is time to move on, and help kids shift gears. Lead the way by introducing a topic that is more upbeat or an activity that will create a lighter mood. Your response to your own worries, stress, and frustrations can go a long way towards teaching your kids how to deal with everyday challenges.
Be aware that your own reaction to the results and how this affects your children, too. If you express anger and stress that’s beyond your control, kids are likely to react that way too. But if you express your concern by taking a proactive approach to making a positive difference, your kids 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 child cope with unnecessary stress, so recognizing your own deficits and seeking help if necessary is crucial.
The best way to teach resiliency is to model it. The most powerful lessons we can teach our children are more than often the ones we demonstrate in our daily habits and behaviours.
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