Helping grandchildren with anxiety

Lockdown has taken its toll on us all but for young people it has been particularly tough. Here’s what we can do to help
mental health of grandchildren

Are you among the many grandparents up and down this land helping grandchildren with anxiety? The isolation of lockdown and trying to cope alone with the demands of remote schooling while being unable to see their friends has left a lot of young people feeling detached, isolated and alone. This week, I’m sharing a few techniques I’ve used with my own children.

Ways of helping grandchildren with anxiety after lock down

Are you worried about your grandchildren? Has life seemed a bit flat since lockdown lifted? Are you finding that your grandchildren are reluctant to return to their clubs/ hobbies, perhaps even reluctant to see their friends?

The period of lockdown has fatigued us all and It’s difficult for us not to worry about the mental health of our grandchildren. However, if you want to provide them with support, you must also support yourself and replenish your batteries. If you attempt to stoically soldier on trying to get them back on track, you’ll lose both ways.

Does it all feel like a giant anti-climax?   

I know the feeling. All through lockdown we tried to ‘cope’ and ‘get through’. I let my children play on their PlayStation and be on their phones, as we came to the conclusion, that the electronics were actually their only vice, their only fun and social interaction opportunity. School work suffered, but we resigned ourselves to the thought that many others would be in the same boat, and if we didn’t do something to raise our spirits, our relationship would suffer. So I found myself giving in, creating more separate time, to give both me and the children the chance to recuperate from my nagging and pushing.

But now they are back at school and the cracks are showing. The motivation is not there; we are approaching summer term, traditionally exam time, and they have the spectre of assessment and exams hanging over them. The pressure they feel is overwhelming. And for others, all direction has been lost, they are coasting to summer. We are all  feeling flat, worn out and demotivated.  

Some common worries

Here are some of the most common worries people have about the young people in their lives: ‘They cant let go of their screens, face time, snapchat, its like they are glued to their screens… ‘ a lot of the parents are feeling that they have been part of the problem, letting the screen time rules slip, so how on earth could they expect to suddenly change the rules back and it all be ok? Parents don’t want any more arguments or wars, we need a period of calm and recuperation.

‘Sleep is shot, they wont or can’t get to sleep at a decent hour, sometimes they are waking up and finding their electronics to play on at all hours’.

How are children feeling?

I think part of what is going on is a huge contradiction, we have been in survival mode and we are expecting to return to ‘thrive mode’. It’s not a switch you can flick on and off. Our children have been in survival mode too, we are throwing them back to school and college etc without the necessary emotional preparation.

They are equally jaded, tired, confused and under pressure to return to normal. This may be leading to a whole host of behaviours.

What is happening on a deeper level?

The pandemic caused an almighty pause, but in this pause it also gave our young people time to stop and evaluate. Often daydreaming through their school zoom lessons, realising how boring life was, what were they really learning? What Is this thing education all about? What would I really like to learn?

My son came downstairs one morning giving off about doing fractions and said why could he not learn about investing and buying a house, skills he could actually use when he was older. He is 9 years old by the way!

This surprised me, but also he was right, of course I tailored a complete lesson on that subject, but it did get me thinking how long the education system is and how lost many of our young folk are within it. Often not getting good grades despite being bright and not finding their enjoyment and passion in their studies – all the while clawing with anxiety to achieve academically at the expense of their wellbeing. We perhaps doubt the education system ourselves but feel less confident to follow an alternative path, what would that path look like? When I find myself thinking in this way, I can imagine how “stuck” a young person must feel about the routes forward.

Changes since Covid:

The school/ college environment is more strict, they can’t mix year groups, so if they don’t get along with their class/ bubble, they don’t have the opportunity to meet others from a different year group at break time. Imagine no breaks at work, or friendly chats in between the drudge?  Many of our young children are worried about the impact of Covid, or passing it on, they worry about another lockdown and about their parents and grandparents. There are all sorts of changes to their routine, affecting their comfort and security. Throw all that on top of being a young person, going though physiological and emotional changes. That pressure has got to show up somewhere!

Existing mental health difficulties exacerbated…

For those who have already suffered with anxiety or mental health difficulties, the true tragedy in what I’m seeing is the change from “managing” their problems into now experiencing the severe end. Those with “shyness” and “awkwardness”, typical dilemmas for young people, have developed social anxiety, now finding life too overwhelming to even leave their house and return to school or college. If they do gather the courage, they have to run the gauntlet of exam stress, and the now more capsulated environment, sadly my daughter is experiencing panic attacks and the one thing I had encouraged her to do was to leave the classroom and get fresh air, but the teacher was reluctant to let her do this because of covid rules. This in turn increased the longevity of the attack and she had to deal with the rest of the class “staring”.

Life has lost its bounce. Things are returning but after a year in lockdown the body and mind can feel sluggish and reluctance can creep in to do the things we used to do and so we may not have many points of pleasure in our week. Did you know that behavioural research into depression shows that some of the essential factors for good mood and staving off low mood and depression are having fun and pleasure in your week.

Tips for helping you and your grandchildren with anxiety

If you are struggling to find ways of helping grandchildren with anxiety to get back to life and do the things they previously enjoyed or the things that will help them feel better, here are some tips.

  1. Be understanding and let them talk even if it’s the same thing again and again, young people need to be heard, just like us, and moreso if they are suffering with anxiety. Get those feelings up and out.
  2. Begin to learn relaxation exercises on youtube with your young person,  just listen through and give some a go. Find one that is relaxing for you and make time to do it together. Don’t judge it, stick with it!   It begins to bring down the overall anxiety level, but it takes perseverance.
  3. Reach out for help – sometimes lets face it our young people listen to everyone else but us!

I want to empower parents but I also know that I as a parent feel completely exhausted at the moment, and we have to stop piling on the guilt and responsibility sometimes. I have reached out to a coach for my son, to help him with his sleep, his attitude to school and getting up and out and off the electronics. Ok so those are my wishes! But when I ask my son what has helped, he says he helps him with his brain and problems. And do you know what, after one session, my son Dan took his electronics out of his room and put them outside so that he does not feel tempted at night to play!!! How many times have we argued over it but there is the magic solution from someone else!!

Some help is free, some you have to pay for, some are reasonable and often a few sessions can get you and your young person back on track. Take the pressure off yourself by reaching out. A coach can help a young person step forward in inventive ways, different from therapy or counselling.

If you are a grandparent and would like to join the conversation and find ways of helping grandchildren with anxiety, then join us for our free event:

Event Information

Actions Bring About Change – we teach the actions to help bring about that change…

About this event

With Jane Kelly and Caroline Gooch. We are Educators – Parents with Kids of 6, 10 and 12 year olds. Background in Clinical Psychology, Grief Recovery, Neuro Linguistic Programming (the process of language and behaviours) and even Girl Guiding.

Through our work we are hearing a lot about collective anxiety, parents are struggling and our children are struggling.

We want to share our experience and begin to open the conversations to families, without judgement, fear or criticism, no question is too small. Someone somewhere may have been through exactly what you are going through we know that sharing our problems helps to progress through them. We also know that by creating a community we create support.

June 7 2020 at 7.30pm

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Last modified: June 10, 2021

Written by 6:07 pm Relationships and dating