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How To Cope With Your Child’s Anxiety
Since the pandemic began in March 2020, kids have been in and out of the classroom — while remote learning has become the new norm.
With most children back to school this month, they may be experiencing several emotional and physical side-effects. These may include anxiety surrounding the return to in-school learning, sleep disruption from lack of a routine, eye strain from too much screen time, worrying over social distancing, mask wearing, and sadly, weight gains due to inactivity and inadequate nutrition. On top of all this is the usual stress of socializing, dealing with bullies, getting good grades and extracurricular responsibilities!
This issue we feature several businesses in the Windsor Essex area that can help your little ones better adapt to the current pandemic scholastic environment.
Gain Peace Of Mind With Carreira Psychology Professional Corporation
Many parents understand that kids thrive on structure. Unfortunately, over the last year and a half, their regular routines (sleep schedules, homework/study habits and mealtimes) have been upended by COVID-19.
According to Dr. Chris Carreira, Clinical Psychologist at Carreira Psychology Professional Corporation this lack of structure and routine can lead to counterproductive habits in some children — especially as they return to the highly-structured environment of the classroom.
“Many students are afraid in-school learning may be more difficult than online learning and are therefore feeling insecure about potentially falling behind and not getting good grades,” Carreira indicates.
He continues by stating: “My best advice to parents worried about their children struggling in a very structured school environment would be to begin implementing the same type of environment they encounter at school, as soon as possible. For example, parents should begin preparing their children by setting bed and meal times at the same time their children will be doing these activities during the academic year. This will help ensure the smoothest transition.”
Carreira also tells Biz X that parents should remind their kids that all children are “in the same boat” when it comes to learning and to acknowledge and validate their feelings.
Separation anxiety among children is another very significant concern when heading back to school, since many kids haven’t strayed beyond the home in nearly two years.
“Change can be very anxiety provoking, and many children, especially the younger ones, may experience separation anxiety (from their parents, homes, pets, etcetera) when being forced to leave the safety of their homes after this extended period of at-home learning during lockdowns,” says Carreira. “Some children are going into grade one having never been to a physical school building. For these children, doing ‘practice runs’ where the parents take them to the school, introduce them to their teachers and show them their classrooms can really help reduce some of this anxiety.”
Another source of stress and anxiety for kids returning to school is making new friends; the lack of socializing with people other than family members since 2020 contributes to this. This also includes worries over contacting COVID-19 at school and bringing it back home.
“In general, children suffering from depression and anxiety are less adept at managing their emotions than adults, because they lack experience in coping and emotional regulation learned through socialization, formal education or life experience,” notes Carreira. “Isolation from friends and family has been particularly difficult on children, as has been the fear of contracting COVID-19 and spreading it to their friends and family.”
Carreira began working as a psychologist in a clinic in the Detroit area in 2006. He then transitioned back to the Windsor area where he was employed at a local private practice between 2010 and 2015. He opened his own private practice in 2016.
“I have really made a name for myself in this community in the area of marriage or couples’ therapy,” Carreira says. “My master’s program was called ‘Marriage and Family Therapy,’ and I received very specialized training (classes as well as internships) in these areas. In addition to this, I have also really developed a name for myself in the area of trauma treatment (PTSD).”
Located at 3063 Walker Road, Unit 202, Carreira Psychology Professional Corporation — with a staff of six psychologists, psychologists in training and psychoanalysts — offers services for individuals as well as couples and family therapy, assessment of children, adolescents and adults, ranging from psycho-educational attention assessments (evaluations to help identify school related diagnoses like attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and learning disabilities) to evaluations of veterans and individuals involved in motor vehicle collisions.
Sleep Tight With Bliss Wellness & Sleep
As previously mentioned, the pandemic disrupted many youngsters’ daily routines, not the least of which was sleep.
Proper sleep is key to focusing and regulating emotions, so getting your kids on a good sleep regimen is vital for good grades, happiness and success.
“Studies have indicated that lack of sufficient sleep can mimic symptoms of ADHD in children,” states Kelly Bartnik, a Certified Sleep Consultant at Bliss Wellness & Sleep. “Babies and young children have higher sleep needs than adults. We all know that feeling of a foggy brain and lack of concentration when we are overtired — so it’s easy to see how it’s not ideal for learning.”
According to Bartnik, educators are quick to note that well-rested children do better in school. Plus, most parents see more emotional control in their children when they are well rested.
“Overfatigue is the other challenge,” Bartnik tells Biz X. “Overtired children tend to have a harder time going to sleep and staying asleep, so a vicious loop is easy to fall into. A child doesn’t know how to sleep so they don’t, until they eventually fall asleep out of exhaustion (or a lot of work on the part of the parent). However, they often awake a short while later, even though they should be tired enough to sleep!”
Before becoming a sleep coach in 2019, Bartnik — a Registered Nurse — spent more than 10 years working with infants and children. In the summer of 2014, she and her husband welcomed their first son into their family.
“Armed with my knowledge of newborns and the strict schedule we keep them on in the hospital environment, I was confident we would have our newborn on a schedule in no time,” Bartnik says. “Imagine my surprise when there was no routine, naps were non-existent and overnight sleep came in one or two hour blocks, for months!”
In the winter of 2015, after reading several books and trying a variety of products directed at increasing sleep (all with no success), Bartnik and her husband decided to call Michelle McAvoy, Owner of Bliss Wellness & Sleep.
“Michelle was incredibly patient when helping us develop a plan that would work for our family,” says Bartnik. “She was subsequently able to get our baby to sleep 12 hours overnight on the third night of his sleep plan — after that we were sold. Our family has been blessed to have Michelle work with our next two as newborns. Michelle helped us guide them into positive sleep habits from an early age and gifted us with sleep much earlier than we had with our first child.”
It was these positive interactions with McAvoy, along with her passion for working with children and their families that sparked Bartnik’s interest in becoming a Certified Sleep Consultant.
Started by McAvoy in Ottawa back in 2013, Bliss Wellness & Sleep offers sleep coaching services for babies and children aged 10-weeks to 10 years of age. Bartnik and her team of two here in Windsor work to assist families in solving any sleep challenges their children present.
This includes difficulties falling asleep at bedtime, staying asleep overnight, naps and bedtime stall tactics in preschoolers and older children.
“Many families refer to us as marriage coaches in addition to sleep coaches,” Bartnik explains. “We love being able to restore the balance for families because sleep makes us the best versions of ourselves and makes parenting a more manageable journey. Nothing feels better than the thanks we receive when parents have well-rested children.”