We are entering into a season of the “new normal” where many things are unpredictable and fast-changing - coping with the constant changes can be nerve-racking for both the parent and the children. According to an SCMP article, in 2020, more Hong Kong secondary school students are stressed during the pandemic and class suspension when compared to last year. We talked to two faculty members at ICS, Mrs. Kimberly Chan and Mr. Willian Schroeder about their perspectives as educators and parents and how they manage stress and anxiety.
Mrs. Kimberly Chan is our Upper Elementary School Counsellor, and Mr. William Schroeder is our Department Head of Physical Education.
Indicators that Anxiety is Present in Your Home
One of the indicators of anxiety in your child is a difference in sleep patterns, mood, and general behavior. Sometimes, your child may talk more or, on the other hand, completely withdraw themselves. Other times, it may be a fixation on a specific situation or topic such as assignments and grades; they are unable to get past their emotions.
The changes can be big or small, and as a parent, you may have an intuition that something is wrong. Take these clues as an opportunity to check-in and talk with your child to see how they are feeling.
Managing Anxiety as a Parent and for Your Child
It can be hard for parents accustomed to Hong Kong culture to express their emotions for themselves and their children. Although anxiety is not something we can prevent, Mrs. Chan encourages parents to embrace the challenge of processing their feelings. You can talk about your feelings with your children. With younger children, help them express their feelings through different mediums such as play or drawing.
Avoiding anxiety might sound like an effective strategy in the short-run, but eventually, it will catch up. In your child, avoiding anxiety may affect them academically, as well as their long-term behavior and personality.
From a physical standpoint, Mr. Willian Schroder explains that physical health is not a magic remedy for anxiety, but we can take care of ourselves by eating nutritious foods and exercising.
Parent Case Study #1: Attention Span and Online Classes
“I have a 4-year-old, and I’m struggling to get him to pay attention to his online classes. How do I deal with my anxiety as a parent?”
“Kids are going to be kids, especially when they are four years old,” says Mr. Schroeder. He goes on to explain that parents who work from home are in a unique situation. For the first time, parents can see how the kids behave during the day, something teachers are trained to deal with daily. Children are going to be distracted even when they are physically present at school; parents just do not get the chance to see it.
Patience is Key
Understand that children will mature throughout their education career - their attention spans and their ability to concentrate for more extended periods will grow. You should still encourage your child to pay attention and prepare an environment conducive to learning. It helps you sit down with your child and go over acceptable behavior and what is not; patience is key. But once you have done all you can as a parent, the rest is out of your control. Recognize that it is almost impossible for children to be attentive throughout the entire school day.
Recognize Your Own Limitations as a Parent
Mrs. Chan says that it is also crucial to understand your boundaries as a parent. You are a person as well, with your limitations and feelings. It can be frustrating when your child does not do as they are asked, and it may feel like you are stuck in the situation. In circumstances like these, it helps to accept that you are anxious and that it is okay to take a break. Christians need to seek God during this time when you feel helpless and question your ability to be fair and loving parents. Praying through your emotions, being vulnerable, and modeling to your kids that you have emotions too, using techniques to calm down, and accepting that you are not perfect can be good first steps to take.
What We Do at ICS
At the lower elementary school level, counselors and teachers frequently emphasize the importance of calming down using the name and tame method. Students are told to 1) stop, 2) name their feelings, 3) do calm down exercises such as breathing through their nose and out through their mouth. Give the three-step process a try with your child!
Parent Case Study #2: Parental Anxiety
“What can I do if I, the parent, get overwhelmed and anxious?”
If your child is there, try to keep your cool. Walk away from the situation if you feel like you are about to burst. You may tell your child you are feeling angry but that you are there for them.
Relying on God
Mr. Schroeder suggests making a list of things you can control and a list of things you cannot control. For the things you can control, prepare, and do the best you can. Keep in mind although you may be able to prepare for the things you can control, it is ultimately under God’s control and that we get to rely on Him.
Parent Case Study #3: Seeking Professional Help
“How do I tell if my child’s anxiety is no longer “normal,” and when do I seek professional help?”
Reach Out to Teachers and School Counselors
Duration and intensity are factors to pay attention to in assessing whether or not to seek outside professional help: when the intrusive thoughts do not go away and affect other areas of your life. Parents can reach out to teachers and get a second opinion about whether the child needs external help. You are also encouraged to talk to the school counselors about how to support your child, as they will have a list of resources and counseling agencies that can give further help. At ICS, counselors, and teachers openly communicate with parents and work together as a team. With parental consent, counselors reach out to external agencies for extra support.
Though you may worry about your child not being “good” in our honor-shame society, focus instead on your child being mentally and emotionally healthy. Mr. Schroeder adds that “if you hurt your arm badly, you would see the doctor immediately; you would not wait or feel any shame, and the same applies to our brains and mental health.” If you notice these signs in your child, go to a professional therapist or psychologist as anxiety can grow, and it might take longer to help your child. If you feel like something is off or fear for your child’s safety, take immediate action.
- Pay attention to patterns of sleep, mood, and general behavior
- Be open and vulnerable in talking to your child about feelings
- Be patient, but also recognize your own limitations as a parent
- Rely on God; he is in control
- Reach out to teachers, counselors, and professionals
We hope you have gained a few insights on how to manage parental anxieties as well as your child’s anxiety during online learning and working from home. Click this link to watch the Facebook Live interview.
The information given above does not provide medical advice. It is intended for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.Back to ICS News