5 Things That Are Stressing Kids Out About COVID19 And How You Can Help Them

5 Things That Are Stressing Kids Out About COVID19 And How You Can Help Them

The coronavirus pandemic has turned our world upside down so suddenly that, even for experienced educators and counselors, comforting students may feel like a very heavy task right now, especially when their own lives are perhaps also just as chaotic.  Understandably, it can be very difficult to think clearly when something unprecedented like this happens, regardless of how commonplace stress was in our lives before. 

To help clear the fog a little bit, here are 5 common fears and concerns emerging from kids, and some practical tips you can use to help your kids process their concerns:

1.  Fears about the coronavirus and what’s going to happen.

Regarding fears about the coronavirus itself, the best advice (for them and for us) is to practice cautious bravery, rather than allowing fear to dictate our attitudes.  Of course, this is easy to say, but it’s difficult to know when that line is being crossed.  One thing that almost guarantees that we’ve crossed the line is getting too absorbed by the media’s coverage of what’s going on.  If your kids are around it constantly, whether it’s of their own accord or second hand from your own intake, the fearfulness can create traumatic responses that can last well into their adult years, and so it’s even more important for them to stay a bit veiled to reality.  Try and monitor how much they’re consuming, and limit their exposure to only the things they need to know to stay safe.  It’s also not a bad idea to console particularly anxious kids by reminding them that, according to statistics, the virus does not affect them severely at all, but it’s still important to avoid it so that we don’t infect other people.

2.  Distress over social distancing.

Many kids are feeling the pangs of having to stay away from their peers and friends, and the hard part is that the ending of lockdown is still unforeseeable.  A comforting approach with this issue is to tell them that although this is difficult, it is definitely temporary, and for the purpose of protection, because otherwise things would get much worse.  Luckily, they have things like facetime and social media (for those old enough) that allow them to stay in touch with their friends.  They can also use this time to try and develop some skills, hobbies and talents that they’ve always been curious about, and in fact these are excellent ways to channel their stress.

3.  Grief.

Given that COVID-19 has been having a deadly impact on the population, there are likely to be many kids affected by its greatest devastations.  One of the hardest things about grief is the fact that it leaves us feeling like there was so much more we wanted to say, but now it’s too late.  To help your kids cope with their bereavement, tell them to write letters to their lost loved ones, expressing everything they’d want them to know.  Focusing on gratitude, and not as much on the sorrow of the loss can minimize the emotion of helplessness.

4.  Fears about family financial situations.

As heartbreaking as it is that children are sometimes forced to endure financial straits, it’s even worse when they are aware of it.  If their concerns are somewhat unfounded, ask them to think of other times when they were worried about something but everything turned out fine.

However, if their concerns are legitimate and real, the best advice for them would be to, again, reinforce that they practice being brave above all else, and encourage them to trust you and themselves enough to believe they will be alright in any situation because they are brave.  To remain in control of themselves and build up mental strength, it’s imperative that they stay focused on whatever is in their control, which, unfortunately, is sometimes limited to just their attitude.  If they find that their emotions of resentment are too much to contain, then they must be smart and use it to their advantage by channelling it into something more long term.  Remind them that some of the most successful people to have ever existed, accomplished what they did because they used the negativity of their circumstances as fuel to propel them out of it.

5.  Worry about academics and extracurricular activities.

Many schools are cutting their sports, arts, and music programs during this time, and many kids are feeling or going to feel the grief of those losses as well, not to mention, may impact their plans for the future – as in college scholarships, etc.  Remind them that, luckily, everyone else will be having the same problems, so no one is going to hold this circumstance against them, and we will get through this.  In the meantime, they can try and see this time as an opportunity to sharpen their skills even more, so they can hit the ground running when everything starts back up.


Why Some Kids Lie About Schoolwork

(and how to teach them self accountability)

You receive an email from your daughter’s high school Science teacher. 

After getting a 65% on the last test, her grade has dropped down to a C-.  The teacher is graciously offering an extra credit assignment to be submitted in one week, which could bump her test grade up to 75%…

Teenagers and Low Self Esteem

Self esteem is a hot but somewhat controversial topic in the Psychology academic world these days.  Many modern day Psychologists denounce high self esteem as a necessary tenet for raising a mentally healthy child.  Whether or not that is true, as many parents and teachers can attest, the absence of high self esteem (a.k.a. low self esteem), seems to be “the problem behind the problem” for many adolescents today. 

Teaching Kids To Be Self Accountable

Teaching Kids To Be Self Accountable

You receive an email from your daughter’s high school Science teacher. 

After getting a 65% on the last test, her grade has dropped down to a C-.  The teacher is graciously offering an extra credit assignment to be submitted in one week, which could bump her test grade up to 75%. 

What a relief!  So, you go tell her about the deal, and although she’s not as relieved as you thought she would be, she agrees that she should do the assignment. 

A week goes by and you get another email – your daughter did not turn in the extra credit assignment and so has missed her chance to raise her grade.  You’re baffled.  It was only a couple of days ago that you had asked her how the assignment was going, expecting her to say what assignment? but instead, she’d said it was fine and she was halfway done.  Now, when you confront her about it, she says she didn’t realize it was due today. 

Have you ever had such an experience with your kid, one so riddled with hints of apathy, immaturity, or outright rebelliousness, that it leaves you wondering why don’t you want what’s best for you?? 

As someone that’s been in the private tutoring industry for over a decade, I’ve been lied to about schoolwork countless times by many students.  For example, I once had a student that suddenly started getting 100’s on his tests, after failing all of the previous tests from that class.  At first, I was proud and impressed, but when I asked him to do the easiest type of problem from the same unit, he couldn’t even do the first step, which, might I add, was typical of the skill level I had seen from him in our previous sessions.  So, I started out by asking him if there was anything he’d like to tell me about his latest successes in Math, and he said no.  Then, I began taking more direct approaches, but his responses still wouldn’t budge. 

Behaviors like this were always so baffling to me, especially in cases where they’d know I knew the truth, and they’d still somehow attempt to defend themselves.  So, I decided I was going to get to the bottom of why some kids self sabotage and how in the world do they justify it to themselves?! 

One thing about me is that I’m a real stickler about reviewing tests with my students when they get them back. Experience has taught me that old tests are where the most valuable lessons are found. By combing over old mistakes, even on the tests that students do well on, we can figure out where their thinking went wrong — like the assumptions they made, the thought processes that lead to their careless or frequently repeated errors — and that way, we can start correcting their self sabotaging test-taking habits.
My students, however, strongly dislike going over old tests. Whenever their grade comes back low, they feel too ashamed to want to look at the test again, and whenever they do well, then they don’t see the point in looking at what they did wrong. Clearly, they find it painful to face their old mistakes, almost like it’s a regret, regardless of how well they performed on the test.
This implies that, ultimately, they lie and self sabotage because their fear of facing their mistakes is greater than the fear of not improving themselves. What we want for them is to switch those two fears around, so that they fear the consequences of standing still to such a degree, that they’re willing to face their mistakes. That is what it takes to accept responsibility and hold oneself accountable.
I’ve uncovered a lot more about these sorts of behavior patterns, how they think and how to effectively teach them to be self accountable, but it’s a lot to take in all at once, so I put together in a 4-part Teaching Accountability email series that covers:
  • How they justify their self sabotage to themselves.
  • How to build trust with your teenager.
  • Strategies for teaching self accountability and for holding them accountable.
  • What I said to my “cheating” student (above) that got him to lower his guard and resolve the issue amicably.
  • Understanding the ideal student mindset, and a way to effectively explain it to them.

If you would like access to this series, submit the form below to subscribe and we’ll email it to you the next few days.

What You Know and Don’t Know About Your Kids

What You Know and Don’t Know About Your Kids

One in five high school freshmen are sexually active, and by senior year, that triples to nearly three in five, the same ratio as seniors that have, at minimum, experimented with alcohol or drugs, according to the CDC’s 2017 Youth Risk Behavior Survey. While most parents are aware of these growing trends, they also tend to assume that “it must be the other kids at their school.” But, there are the things you know about your kids – such as how they’re doing in school, the things they talk to you about, what you know about their friends and social circle, and so on – and then, there are the things you don’t know, like what they really talk about with their friends, how much they have already experimented with drugs and sexual behavior, what they watch and text to each other on their phones, their ways of getting around your security measures, how they’re being treated by their peers or how they’re treating their peers, if they’ve ever had thoughts of self harm or harming others, etc. From their point of view, this system works well for both – the kids don’t want the parents to know and the parents are happier when they don’t know. This is especially true for families that come from conservative cultures and backgrounds.

Nowadays, our social culture is much more toxic and even more in their face, not to mention easier to hide. At least when we were that age, there seemed to be somewhat more of a baseline standard of “we have to be in a relationship first,” but we are now living in the age of the “hook-up culture” where it’s perfectly normal to engage in sexual activities over the phone and without ever even kissing, because apparently that is only reserved for people you actually like. These skewed perceptions are translating into a shockingly low self esteem, especially for girls. Kids are valuing their feelings so incredibly low that they are hardly even seeing each other as humans anymore – just objects that are meant to be used for validation and acceptance, and ultimately, this devaluing of emotions is culminating into the major contributing factors associated with the rising rates of teenage depression and anxiety and other serious mental illnesses, as well as the highest ever teenage suicide rates.

This is not meant to scare you, but rather, to make you aware that it’s highly likely that the problems that you might be having with your kids are not your biggest problems with your kids, and that your biggest problems are the problems you probably don’t even know about.  By the time issues like low academic performance or motivation, or their defiant attitude and lack of respect for authority come to your attention, the hidden problems that you know nothing about are liable to be the far greater danger.   Of course, it is possible that your perception is actually accurate and that your kids truly aren’t participating in any high risk activities, but that doesn’t mean that they are not constantly surrounded by them, and won’t eventually become influenced by them.  Consider things like humanity’s history with slavery, or the holocaust, as proof that any behavior can become normalized if everyone else is doing it.

For many parents, especially those that become forcibly aware of the “other problems,” the common approaches that they instinctively reach for to handle these situations are usually met with even more conflict and retaliation.  That’s because, in the same way that the things we think are the problems are not the real problems, the solutions we tend to jump to are also not the real solutions.  Limitations, restrictions and punishments only go so far before they start to not only add more stress to the problems we don’t know about, but also inadvertently communicate to them that we are not reliable resources for them to come to with their deeper problems. 

By now, you might be wondering if I’m suggesting that you should leave your kids alone completely and impose no rules and restrictions.  That is certainly not my point at all.  They are children and obviously lack the life experience for which they absolutely need guidance.  What I am really trying to address here are the approaches we resort to in order to guide them – our influencing tactics.  In this day and age, different methods of influencing are required as kids transition into their teenage years and beyond, since we are obviously living in a different time and the strategies that may have worked on us when we were their age can very well backfire on us now.    

The most important thing to keep in mind when interacting with your kids, however, is the possibility of there being bigger fish to fry than just the ones you know about, and if you’re lucky enough that there aren’t, there may very well be conversations happening all around them that are negatively influencing their thinking.  That is why you’ll need to be an even greater influence in their life, and so, it’s wise to keep the possibility of these “bigger problems” at the forefront of your mind whenever you’re in conflict with them, and let that influence your reactions as well.