Choose ears over fears this summer: Part 1
Anxiety rates among children have soared during the pandemic, and my private counselling practice has had a wait list this entire time. Some of this has been driven by fear of the COVID virus, but for many, it is the compounding of stressors that has amplified all types of anxiousness. Students who worry before taking a test suffered more, children with separation anxiety were clingier, parents with generalized anxiety were jumpier, and kids with “eco-anxiety” fretted more about climate change and animal extinction.
My advice to parents this summer: choose ears over fears.
This is inspired by a wonderful kids’ conservation organization called Earth Rangers, who I was involved with two years ago for their app to provide families with outdoor educational activities that help the earth while teaching kids important environmental facts.
They’ve recently kicked off a delightful initiative called “Got Your Ears On?” that specifically helps to address the rise in “eco-anxiety” among kids. It encourages families to choose a pair of animal ears (my favorite is the red fox) that they can make out of cardboard and headband.
When kids put these ears on, it signals to their adults they want talk about the planet and their worries. Parents can wear the ears to show they’re listening and ready to help the whole family start a fun new eco-activity. Behind this initiative is a robust white paper done by Earth Rangers and health experts, but the handy Parent Guide captures all the key recommendations.
All you need to know is that a key research finding reveals that some levels of “eco-anxiety” can actually be healthy with the right support that leads them to take action. For kids with eco-anxiety, they actually fare better when they are actively taking action to improve matters, so it’s therapeutic too!
With summer quickly approaching, parents don’t have to be stuck scratching their heads wondering what to do with their kids for three long months. Yes, we want our kids to come out of their rooms and get outside, but what is there for them to do that feels safe? Sure, vaccines are rolling out and community spread is dropping. But even if camps and travel open up this summer – do we even feel ready?
Instead, this summer can begin the re-calibration of our family’s anxiety, get back in touch with nature during these warm months, and start to regain some of the feelings of stability we lost. This gentle re-immersion would do us all wonders and we can set our eyes on a more normal back to school in September.
Look out for Part 2 of this post as I share specific actions and recommendations to get ready for summer!