1. Help them stay grounded in the present moment
If you have a child who is worrying a lot or feeling anxious, a good first step is to help ground them in the present moment: when we’re fully in the present (and not thinking about the future or the past), it’s difficult to also hold onto an anxious thought. A little meditation exercise used by emergency response teams around the world can help with this: find a quiet place, take a deep breath, then ask your child to name 5 things you can see, 4 things you can hear, 3 things you can feel, 2 things you can smell, and 1 thing you can taste. You might consider some cognitive-behaviour tools, as well. For instance, asking your child to write down their biggest worries and then scrunch up the paper into balls and throw them into the bin (together as a fun activity) can help to lighten the weight of anxious thoughts.
2. Try to get them into the psychological state of ‘flow’
One thing anxiety loves is an empty mind, and school holidays naturally come with more free hours to fill. Keeping children busy is great, but getting them into the state of flow is even better. When someone is in flow, their sense of time dissolves as they are fully encapsulated in the activity. Even though we may be at home more, there are a range of options for trying to help children find flow. Tate Kids has a bunch of ideas for easy art projects to do at home. To travel from your living room, YouVisit offers 360-degree VR tours of places around the world, while the Discovery Channel has some virtual school field trips planned. GoNoodle has a range of activities to help kids burn off excess energy. Storyline has a range of children's audiobooks to listen to for free. Or, for a bit of fun, type the name of an animal into Google on your phone, e.g. 'tiger', and you can choose the option to see it in your living room in augmented reality.
3. Build a shared sense of self- and group-efficacy
Self- and group-efficacy are one of the key elements of psychological first aid, an approach for helping people in the emotional aftermath of a crisis. They are about focusing people on the things they can control and making them feel empowered, even during difficult situations. Developing self-efficacy can be as simple as the language you use: talking about all the things you can do during the school holidays, rather than the things you can’t. Asking your child to choose between options of things they can do helps give them a sense of agency back, which can help combat feeling trapped and listless. Group-efficacy is all about having a shared understanding of a situation. Making sure everyone in the family has the same understanding of lockdown restrictions, and what is and isn’t happening, will help put everyone on a more level emotional playing field and reduce the chance of clashes and miscommunication.