Donegal Youth Service offers advice on supporting children who are feeling anxious or frightened due to Covid-19

This is a stressful time for children who may struggle to express their worries

Child blowing bubbles  Pixabay

A fun activity like blowing bubbles can relieve a child's coronavirus anxiety

This is a challenging time for everyone, but children and young people in particular could be feeling a lot of anxiety. 

Their feelings are exacerbated by the barrage of news as well as the amount of inaccurate information they may be exposed to on social media. The major change in their routine and distancing from their friends will add to any insecurity they are feeling. 

They may also be worried for themselves and their loved ones.

Donegal Youth Service has put together helpful information for families to help lessen the stress, confusion and anxiety being experienced by children and young people.

Open Conversation

They advise that parents or guardians have open conversations about Covid-19, and that they do so in simple language and in an age-appropriate manner.

Children and teenagers will be hearing a lot of rumours and may not be aware that much of this is not true. It is therefore advised to ask children if they have any particular fears or worries about Covid-19.

Communication is key and while parents and guardians do not have all the answers, it is important to help children feel reassured, connected and safe. Ensure that they realise that all the measures such as school closures and social distancing are positive actions to help keep them safe. 

What not to say

Donegal Youth Service advises people not to talk about financial difficulties in front of children. Parents and guardians are also advised to avoid talking about childcare concerns in front of children.

is important that adults manage their own fears and worries too, and that they seek support and advice if it is needed.

Signs of anxiety

Stress, sadness and anxiety in children will often have a physical manifestation. It could show as sore tummies, headaches, disturbed sleep, lack of interest in food, more likely to cry than usual, or withdrawn behaviour.

They are likely to need more attention, so it is best to play with them, reassure and talk to them as much as possible. Joining their activities, be it play, colouring or even just sitting together to watch television will make them feel more secure.

Stress in teenagers can manifest as changes in sleep patterns and eating habits. They may experience mood swings, crying, withdrawal and angry outbursts. Excess gaming is also an escape they may turn to in times of stress.

As with younger children, it is important to talk openly to teenagers and to respond as calmly as possible to their behaviour. They too need to feel supported and secure. 

Screen time

We cannot shield our children completely from what is happening, but it is important to be aware of screen time.

Images of people in hazmat suits and patients in hospitals or makeshift wards can be disturbing, so it is important to avoid over-exposure.

Get Outside

It is crucial to maintain a good degree of normality and routine. As far as possible, break up the day with learning, creative activities and regular mealtimes.

Getting outside as much as possible will make a big difference to everyone’s physical and mental well-being. Even with social distancing, it is fine to play outside and to get out for walks in the many forests, beaches and other natural amenities we are blessed with here in Donegal.

Still concerned?
Donegal Youth Service invites anyone who is concerned about their child’s mental health to contact the organisation. The office is closed to the public but people can call 074 9129630 or email admin@donegalyouthservice.ie for guidance or information on available services. 

Tips for young people

  • It is normal to feel sad, stressed, confused, scared or angry during a crisis
  • Talk to someone you trust about how you feel
  • Do something you enjoy
  • Remember, this will pass

If you have a story or want to send a photo or video to us please contact the Donegal Live editorial team any time. To contact Donegal Democrat and Donegal People's Press, email editorial@donegaldemocrat.ie To contact Donegal Post, email editor@donegalpost.com To contact Inish Times, email editor@inishtimes.com.

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