Why Kids’ Fears About Lockdown Feel Like A Reality
My work with anxious children and teens is about providing strategies and tools to navigate difficult situations. I help them identify their anxious thoughts and consider more helpful evidence-based thinking.
But what if this evidence no longer exists for children? What if their world has become one in which they can no longer trust what is going to happen next? Anxiety thrives in a climate of uncertainty and ambiguity. For the last 18 months children and teens, along with adults, have been trying to survive in that exact environment.
Remember when birthdays were the highlight of your year as a child. Sure, parents may have only allowed the big birthday party every second year, but there was always the guarantee that birthdays were a special day. For children whose birthday falls in a Victorian lockdown period, they have now had two years of disappointment. I have observed adults through social media mourn their second lockdown birthday or anniversary but imagine that same grief from a child’s perspective.
Now I know that in the face of a pandemic and health crisis this may not seem that important. But what I do know is that these types of disappointments together with being unable to plan, provide a child with a definitive statement or reassurance of when something is going to happen creates a distrust. Distrust in us as parents, teachers, psychologists, and society.
Those students who completed Year 11 last year and were relieved that at least they weren’t doing Year 12 in 2020. The thought that “well at least this will sorted out by my Year 12” has now been challenged. What is more difficult for this cohort is they have already observed the impact of disrupted learning, absence of continuity, and cancellation of highlight events of their final year. This leaves our current Year 12’s with an underlying apprehension of what the year ahead holds for them given they have already had 2 lockdowns disrupting their study, sacs and the date of the GAT.
For all those clients I have seen where we managed anxiety with plan or identifying helpful thoughts...I apologise. I know I am asking you to dig deep and trust that your fear that you won’t ever have a birthday party again, that you can’t look forward to a holiday because you never know if it will happen, or your academic year will not be derailed is unfounded. COVID and lockdown has meant as parents, teachers, and psychologists we have to work all the harder to win back our children’s faith that all can be okay, and that our fears are not a reality.