5 Ways to Help Kids Cope with Covid Anxiety
Maybe you've noticed your kiddo squirming around in their seat and distracted during Zoom school or panicking when going out in public. Covid has undoubtedly taken a toll on everyone's mental health and disrupted our daily lives and routines. While pandemic strain has greatly increased the stresses of adulthood, our children have been hit especially hard.
Families are reporting changes in their children's mental and emotional health — notably increased anxiety — and many parents have been left wondering how to help their kids cope.
You don't have to figure it out alone. Read on for some suggestions from experts Dr. David Rabin, MD, PhD, a neuroscientist and psychiatrist and the co-founder of Apollo Neuro, and Amy Edgar, APRN, CRNP, FNP-C, founder of the CICS - Children's Integrated Center for Success, both pioneers in the mental health space, on how to help your kids deal with change and Covid anxiety:
1. Give them some space, literally.
Much of the pandemic anxiety that kids feel is due to a disruption of their normal routine and environment. If your child's school has been moved online, try carving out a "school space" in the house where they can do all of their work with few distractions. Establishing a separate space in the home helps to instill structure, separating work from the rest of their day.
Small changes to your child's environment can help them stay focused in situations where they are expected to pay attention. Sensory interventions like a white noise machine or noise-canceling headphones help keep your child focused and present while studying. Nurse Edgar recommends filling a sock with rice to create a DIY reusable heating pad. The weight, feel, and warmth of the object can provide comfort and help to ground kids in the moment. Add a few drops of lavender essential oil for an extra calming effect.
Visual schedules and goal charts placed around your child's space can help them stay on track too — hang them around the house and maybe even invest in a large whiteboard.
2. Practice meditation, breathwork, and mindfulness with them.
"Deep breathing, yoga, meditation, stretching and other mindfulness activities, when done properly, can and do boost safety signals to our brains that rebound in our nervous system, calming us down," explains Dr. Rabin, who has spent over a decade counseling thousands of patients who struggle with anxiety, stress and PTSD.
While it may seem challenging to teach meditation and breathwork to someone so young, children of all ages can benefit from learning different ways of practicing mindfulness. These tools are incredibly useful when it comes to improving focus and relieving stress.
This doesn't mean forcing your child to sit on a cushion and practice meditation for 30 minutes a day, but you can teach them about awareness of body and breath and how to use these activities to calm down. See our 3 Easy Mindfulness Exercises for Your Littles and Creative Tools for Helping Kids Manage Anxiety.
Nurse Edgar suggests using bubbles to teach children about breathwork and the importance of deep breathing. Have them exhale and blow a bubble out, then wait a few seconds and inhale to prepare for the next bubble. Then, move on to 'blowing bubbles' without the wand, and this will mimic deep breathing.
This is a great tool for children because it is something they can tap into at any moment that will remind them that they are safe.
3. Establish a routine.
Creating a regular schedule helps maintain a sense of calm and predictability and can help kids feel more 'normal.' Children of all ages benefit from routine. Try structuring your child's day as closely as you can to their pre-Covid schedule, keeping their bedtime and morning and evening routines consistent.
A Covid routine should follow a general order, such as:
- Wake up (at the same time every weekday).
- Get dressed, have some breakfast and active play in the morning before transitioning into schoolwork.
- Have a regular "lunchtime," and set aside time for homework in the afternoon.
- Do a family activity in the evening--bonus points for something creative!
- Reading at night is a great way to calm down. Ending the day with a regular routine helps enforce positive sleep patterns which additionally contribute to easing anxiety.
It is important for your children to maintain some social interaction even if it is via Facetime — considered reaching out to parents of your child's friends to establish a regular online "recess" or playdates.
4. Set the tone & listen with compassion.
Parents set the tone of their household, and modeling good coping skills is crucial. Take care not to express extreme negativity and fear and try your very best to stay positive, as difficult as that may be at the moment. If you're struggling with your own anxiety, make it a priority to set aside time to take care of yourself, whether this means seeking help from a therapist or engaging in activities like yoga or exercise. Demonstrating the importance of self-care to your kids encourages them to take care of themselves in turn.
Talk through how you are managing your own feelings to normalize this kind of conversation in your household. When your child comes to you with Covid concerns, it may be tempting to assure them that everything is going to be ok, but this can backfire and doesn't fully address their worries. Rather than taking this approach or dismissing your child's concerns, listen carefully to their feelings and find out where they are getting their information. Validate their worries while ensuring that they don't have any misconceptions about the disease.
Acknowledge how your child is feeling in the moment. Try using language like "I can see that you are feeling scared and anxious — a lot of people are feeling that way right now." Make sure to differentiate "what if" from "what is", and to help make clear what is happening versus what your child might be worried about happening.
Check in regularly, keep communication open, and give lots of soothing hugs.
There are a variety of tools and resources that can help. Dr. Rabin is the co-founder of Apollo Neuro, which has developed the first scientifically validated wearable that actively improves our resilience to stress using a novel touch therapy that signals safety to the brain. The size of an Apple watch, the Apollo has no distracting screens and even has special bands just for kids. A test run by Nurse Edgar found that 100 percent of pediatric subjects dealing with ADHD and anxiety showed improvements in anxiety and impulse control from wearing the Apollo.
CBD can also help kids and adults alike. Dr. Rabin recommends the Premium CBD Tincture by Artis Botanicals. CBD (cannabidiol) is a substance extracted from hemp or marijuana that does not contain THC or get you high. Available in numerous forms from tinctures to gummies, CBD treats a variety of health complaints from migraines to chronic pain to stress. In children, it is most frequently used to help with focus, sleep, and calm.
You can even help your kid create their own personal anti-anxiety kit full of tools to help them calm down if they start to get worried and worked up. If you have noticed that certain activities or toys seem to soothe your child, include them in the kit, whether this is a stress ball, a piece of soft fabric, or their favorite book. When they start to feel anxious, they can pull the kit out.
Know when you need additional help and reach out to your child's primary care provider who can offer further suggestions.
How are you coping with Covid going into 2021? Share with us @BritandCo!
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Artist Dev Heyrana On How Bravery, Resilience and Sunshine Influence Her Work
Ever meet someone who you feel immediate kinship with on a deep almost spiritual level? That is legit every person's experience upon meeting Dev Heyrana, the star of this edition of Creative Crushin'. A fine artist, hip hop dance teacher and constant collaborator, Dev's particular brand of creativity is one-of-a-kind. She manages to be warm, welcoming and woke, with a focus on inclusivity, social justice and motherhood that comes through in every piece of art she creates.
Anjelika Temple here, co-founder of Brit + Co and one of many humans who has benefitted from Dev's boundless generosity and kindness. We first connected at a launch event, then I asked her if she and her family would like to model for a B+C shoot (they did!), then months later, I asked the IG universe if anyone would be down to co-parent with me for a day so I could speak at a conference. Dev said yes! And for those that know her, none of these serendipitous moments are surprising.
Now it's time to delve more into Dev's story, her creative inspiration, her thoughtful approach to parenting and what makes her more passionate than ever about bringing her point of view and artistic voice into the universe.
Anjelika Temple: First, foundations. Where did you grow up? What is your heritage? What did you study in school? Where do you live now?
Dev Heyrana: Born in The Philippines and immigrated to the U.S. when I was 9 years old. Me and my family are from the island of Cebu and I'm a proud Cebuana. My childhood in the Philippines felt like freedom. I had my swimsuit in my backpack for whenever we decided to swim and I biked everywhere.
Immigrating here at 9 yrs old was a transition, to say the least. My parents had big dreams but the move was heavy on them. It wasn't easy. I had to grow up fast. I took care of my sisters while my parents worked night shifts. By the age of 12 I would cook dinner and get my sisters ready for bed. Something I didn't realize was that kids my age didn't do those things until I got older. We would play these make-believe games to make, in hindsight, our hard situation brighter.
I think this is really when art played a big role in my life. It was something I could escape in and always felt healing.
I witnessed racism towards my family and didn't know how to make sense of it. These events left a mark. I was a quiet kid and observed everything and everyone around me. I think about my grandparents, Lolo Jose and Lola Rita, a lot as I walk through life. When I make decisions. As hard as it feels, you have two choices, do you let it take you down or take it one step at a time forward. I kept going and it really shaped me as to why I am the way I am today.
I studied Fine Arts at The Corcoran in DC. I owe that decision to my art teacher, Mr Giles, in High School. He was retiring and wore a Hawaiian shirt every day during my senior year. He was a curmudgeon and I felt incredibly special since out of everyone in the school he really believed in me. As grumpy as he seemed to the class, he would tell me things like "Go into the other studio and break some glass, then put it on a canvas." He's the reason why my abstract pieces have elements like clay and sand in them.
I've had incredible mentors and all were teachers. Mr. Giles in High School and Christine George in College. Christine was the one who told me to go either to New York or San Francisco because "D.C. is no place for an artist like you." She told me to not listen to anyone, how I can still paint, be a graphic designer, and, if I choose to, have a family. I've never had anyone tell me anything like that before.
I took a chance because of her. Moved and went to Design School in 2006 and I've stayed in the Bay Area ever since, raising two girls with the love of my life.
Anj: You are one of those magical human beings that has figured out how to be a full-time artist. What was your career path like before you were able to dive fully into your creative passions?
Dev: The most radical thing I could have done in my family, I did, I went to college for Fine Arts. A mix of being so young and having to do it on my own, I went with the school that gave me more scholarships. Even then I worked three jobs to be able to get through it. Hard work is ingrained in me.
With my sculpture background, I fell in love with Print and Packaging and why I came out here to San Francisco. I appreciated the security of having a career in Graphic Design. I also learned how to work with clients and the business side of things. Even then, I never stopped painting.
A few years ago I went through a pretty hard time with my health. I dealt with six surgeries in one year and I still have to do some follow-up ones. That experience almost broke me and what got me through was my family and painting in bed while I recovered.
When I finally got back on my feet, my heart just wasn't in Graphic Design anymore. So I made a two year plan. With a toddler and a mortgage, I wanted to make sure my steps were thought out. I put myself out there as an Artist while I still worked in Design. After a year I worked part time as a Graphic Designer and stepped down from my Creative Director position. I loved it, to be creative as an Artist and as a Designer. I looked at 2018 as my year to make the jump. If my work as an Artist balances out with my salary then I would quit in the Summer of 2019. And so here we are. I also am sharing a studio with my good friend, Naomi PQ, and I feel like my creative drive is just beginning.
Anj: What do you love about painting? How do you feel when you're in a creative flow state?
Dev: Like every part of me is free. Free to express myself through the stroke of my hand. How all of it leads back to my heart. These elements I use to paint have a mind of their own and how I need to respect the process.
It centers me and reminds me that the process is just like the life we lead. I know I still have so much more to learn but while I'm painting no matter how it's going, I'll embrace this moment.
Anj: You reference your roots quite a bit in your work. Talk to me more about how your roots inspire your work.
Dev: One of my earliest memories is of my Lolo Jose teaching me how to water mango saplings. He converted to Buddhism when my mother was young, so he viewed the world with love and kindness. I didn't realize it then but watering those mango trees were life lessons. We need to take the time to nurture, practice patience, and respect all living things. I still imagine him walking beside me often, carrying his teachings as I find my way in this world.
Nature and the Sun drive my pieces. My abstract works are fragments of moments. Like the sunset I grew up with when I was seven years old in the Philippines, like how I saw the water in Cebu when I dove in as a young adult, and like when I saw the redwoods with my children for the first time.
I see earth in our skin and especially when I paint people. How our mango trees grew and blossomed because the dark earth was rich with nutrients. I imagine the Sun piercing through these women I depict. I paint their love and bravery because their resilience cannot be contained. I want to celebrate all of it.
This is the beauty of Art, I am able to paint exactly how I see it.
Anj: Motherhood and your daughters are also central themes in your work. How has motherhood changed your approach to creating artwork?
Dev: Everything. I was still deep in my Design Career and I would paint at home. One day Quinn, who was 3 years old at the time introduced me at the park to a mom. "This is my mom, she's an Artist." It struck me that my toddler knew who I was more than I knew myself. That's really when I really owned it. I am more fearless because of my girls.
I own my body, I thank people when they compliment me, and I am selective but fearless when I use my voice. I am more in tune how I speak about myself because of them. When I paint these women I want to celebrate them. I notice how I embrace myself is translated in my paintings.
Anj: What advice can you give to parents who are trying to tap into their kiddos' innate creativity?
Dev: I don't have a lot of guidelines set up. I'll say "Let's draw the biggest fish we can draw" or "how many silly lines can we make" and I let them lead me. They ask me questions, show me things, and I sit there with my coffee watching their eyes wide with excitement. Watching them in their creative process is pure joy for me. Those silly lines can turn into a dragon or waves and next thing we know, we're drawing a big beach scene. My advice would be that you can suggest something to start it off but be open to how they take it. It is such a beautiful window into their minds.
Anj: Shifting gears to HIP HOP DANCE! Talk to us about his component of your creative expression.
Dev: I loved the Hip Hop scene in DC and discovered how much fun the clubs were in college. My friends told me about this Hip Hop Crew I should try out for, I was so scared because I've never taken a dance class in my life. I got in and it was like having another family. We competed all over the East Coast, it was a blast!
I found hipline when I started my first Design Job and needed an outlet. It was exactly what I needed and one of the owners asked if I was interested to teach. I've been teaching there since 2009 and am still going strong. It's a wonderful community of women. Now we're virtual and reaching clients all over.
Anj: What does a typical [pandemic] day look like for you? How does it differ from your rhythm before COVID?
Dev: I've been practicing being kinder to myself lately. Both me and my husband work full time and so having the girls at home is a challenge. Some days we are amazed by how smooth it went and then there are others where if the girls are clean and bellies are full, it's a total win.
Now that we're on month 8 our rhythm before covid felt more chaotic to be honest. I felt like we were always rushing out the door while carrying so many bags. Now my husband and I try to have coffee together, if he has a break from his meeting, and we sit with Quinn before school to see what she has to do for the day. Rowan's preschool closed down but we were able to find a wonderful speech therapist for her and she has an Adventure Pod we go to two times a week.
The one thing we really try to do is go outside once a day. Have some magic in their childhood no matter how small. It could be just going up for a hike by our home and picking up leaves, riding our bikes, or watching the sunset from our window. Seeing how the girls' react to these adventures we have is pure magic.
Anj: When you get creatively blocked or burnt out, how do you reset? Do you have tips you can share?
Dev: I go outside. I go out for a hike or go to the beach. Even if it's 15 minutes, something about grounding yourself in Nature is really healing. I also do exercise where I doodle for two minutes because it feels doable. Judgment-free doodles, always opens the doorway to more.
Anj: I know firsthand that community-building is huge for you. Tell us more about what your support system and creative community looks like.
Dev: I feel a lot of love and strength when I think of my community. My relationship with my sister led the way what women supporting women looks like. It's listening, asking questions, remembering, cheering for all the wins, being there even if it's hard, and taking time to invest in them. The way me and my sister show up for each other is why I have these amazing women in my life. I can talk to them about my family, motherhood, and we're all trying to balance it all while sharing my most recent project. I feel really blessed especially looking back in my college years where I don't know where Art would take me.
Anj: When you need to give yourself a pep talk, what does it sound like?
Dev: I usually take a deep breath then say or think "One step forward". Most of the time, I'm scared (as shit) but the thought of not trying scares me more. That one step forward can be hard as hell and maybe even heartbreaking, but I have to try.