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How B.C. parents can help anxious kids adjust to life as COVID dwindles

Vancouver pediatrician Anamaria Richardson advises parents to express their emotions, create daily routines for their children
A return to normalcy after 15 months of non-medical masks and social distancing is a battle every child in B.C. must now face. (Unsplash)

A return to normalcy after 15 months of non-medical masks and social distancing is a battle every child in B.C. must now face, and for some the idea of large gatherings and sleepovers can be stressful.

“In children, anxiety is incredibly prevalent right now,” said Vancouver pediatrician Anamaria Richardson. “They’ve had to deal with so many transitions.”

Not only did young ones grapple with a switch from in-person to online schooling, but also renewed worries about transmitting COVID-19 to their grandparents after not seeing them in months.

There’s also a new struggle younger, still-developing children have faced: a lack of human interaction.

Physical distancing restrictions have prevented many kids from socializing with people outside of their households.

Richardson examined a child on Tuesday whose parents brought him in because they were concerned the seven-month-old wasn’t smiling at strangers.

“I don’t think he’s ever seen a stranger’s mouth,” said the pediatrician. She told the parents the child will learn how to better interact once he’s around more people when the province lifts its indoor mask mandate July 1.

“Childrens’ behaviour isn’t static,” Richardson said. “It can and will change to adapt to a new state of normal.”

RELATED: Here’s how to talk to your kids about COVID-19

Talk about feelings, make a routine

Encourage kids to talk about their feelings to help with the unprecedented transition, Richardson recommended.

“This gives them a language they can use to communicate,” Richardson said. “Kids are modelling their parent’s behavior during this worrying time.”

Psychologist Lynn Alden, a professor at UBC, said “it’s normal to feel anxious about going back.”

Research has shown that just labelling emotions can give people a sense of control, Alden added.

Caregivers can create a routine to help the child come to terms with what the future will look like.

Things don’t have to be so scary, Richardson said. If parents can help their children identify what’s coming next, their anxiety will lessen.

“It will take away that fear about the unknown.”

READ ALSO: Clinicians worry pandemic is worsening youth mental health

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