My 7yo son is still afraid of the Coronavirus and won’t go outside beyond our yard. How am I going to assure him he is safe and get him back into the classroom when things open up again?
Anxious mom with anxious son.
Lots of parents are having this exact thought. It is common for people to be anxious, and many people have unwarranted or heightened fears of germs. This is likely because biologically we give more importance to anything that might be a threat to our survival and that fear response can be overdriven.
To help quell his anxiety, you first must deal with your own anxiety and try to remain calm, even if you have to “fake it, till you make it.” Your sense of security and safety (or lack of it) will rub off on him.
Next – work with him to manage his anxiety, so that it is a project that you tackle together, allowing him to take leadership and have a sense that you won’t push him to do anything he can’t handle.
Explain how anxiety works so he understands the phenomena. Use the metaphor of a smoke detector that is trying to keep you safe and detecting smoke from a fire. Sometimes you bake cookies and the smoke detector goes off even though there is no fire. Our brain does the same thing with its threat alert system that turns on when it doesn’t need to.
Create a set of challenges that increase incrementally, so that he is feeling anxious but in control. That might be playing in front of the house instead of the fenced back yard, then maybe a walk around the block. Don’t progress to the next “challenge” until he can manage his anxious feelings. That doesn’t mean they are gone – but he is dealing with them and building up his courage and coping skills. Remember – it is just a feeling – not an actual threat. We never like to see our children uncomfortable, but the more they practice, the more they will change their relationship to their anxious thinking and reduce their power over them.