Helping Children and Youth Cope with Anxiety around War and Other Difficult Events
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“Anxiety in the heart of a person causes dejection, but a good word will turn it into joy.”

– King Solomon

Anxiety has been on the rise for people of all ages in recent years. Difficult events, like the war in Ukraine, are intensifying these feelings. Parents, grandparents, families, and educators are reaching out to Jewish Family and Children’s Services for guidance on how to help children and youth.  

US Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy has observed: “The future wellbeing of our country depends on how we support and invest in the next generation.” 

“It’s natural to want to protect children from scary things, yet it’s best to be ready to talk about difficult topics and offer your child support,” says Sheila Norman, MA, parent educator at JFCS’ Center for Children and Youth. 

Signs of anxiety vary by age, developmental stage, and the individual child. Younger children may not have the words yet to express their emotions, making it especially important to observe changes in their moods or behaviors. Teens may withdraw into their own thoughts and worries, leading to growing feelings of anxiety and depression.  

Common signs of stress or anxiety may include: 

  • Young children: Changes in sleep or eating patterns; mood changes; increased clinginess; reversion to baby talk, bed-wetting, or other regressive behaviors. 
  • Elementary school-aged children: Sleep disturbances; increased animation; heightened emotions (irritability, anger, tears).
  • Preteens and teens: Increased moodiness; tendency to isolate, caught up in their own thoughts and feelings. 

Sheila suggests trying the following steps to ease a child’s anxiety: 

  • Encourage compassion. Consider actions your family can take to help, like writing to an elected official or donating to a nonprofit organization. Or model compassion to others who may be going through a challenging time. 
  • Point out the kindness of people. As Mr. Rogers said, “To this day, especially in times of ‘disaster,’ I remember my mother’s words and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers―so many caring people in this world.”  
  • Monitor your own emotions. Children learn to cope with world events by watching adults in their lives. If you find you are struggling, reach out to a family member, friend, or a professional. By caring for your own emotional health, you can best care for your child’s.  
  • Keep an eye out for signs of distress. In addition to watching for the signals above, be mindful of other changes specific to your child or teen. These signs may indicate the need for more support.  

If you observe signs of anxiety in your child, have questions, or need some guidance to talk with your child about difficult topics, please contact JFCS’ Center for Children and Youth. Our professional staff can help!

Additional Resources from JFCS’ Center for Children and Youth:

Posted by Admin on April 11, 2022