Valerie Lane Simonsen on Viral Anxiety in Children

I reached out to some experts I admire to ask about how they would handle the Viral Anxiety in children.   Global Naturopathic Physician, Dr. Valerie Lane Simonsen, ND, responded below. I followed her comments with my two cents worth.                                                  


VLS: The pandemic of fear is more powerful than the virus.

  • How do you address anxiety produced by news broadcasts?  

VLS: Take 3 deep breathes all the way down to your toes. Then, start jumping around.  Shake all parts of your body.  Let out any sounds!  Just let it all out!

DAD: Do this with your kids, and you’ll most likely end up in a laughing heap. We all know laughter is the best medicine.

  • What’s a good way to broach an anxiety-producing subject?

VLS: The first thing is to make sure the sources you are listening to are giving accurate information.  Share age appropriate information.

DAD: The younger the child, the more convoluted their understanding. My friend’s 8-year-old niece asked if everyone was going to die. She’s too young to understand adult speculation about a virus. However, hiding the info from them will allow youngsters to create their own speculations, so engage them in daily conversation and hugs.

  • How do you convince a child she/he’s safe when the adult world is saying they’re not?

VLS: Safety is not found with words.  Safety is found with touch.  Keep the children warm and close.  Spend family time playing games without Internet.  Keep things constant and consistent in the activities of daily living. Get outside as often as possible with the children.  PLAY!

DAD: Here are a few unusual ideas for fun:

☺ Have the family act out their favorite story.

☺ Go for a walk in the neighborhood looking for signs of spring.

☺ Get a bird ID book, and set up a bird feeder.

☺ Start a garden.

☺ Pop your own popcorn for a Family Movie Night (with no commercials).

☺ Have everyone copy math questions from their textbooks onto index cards, and hold a Math-A-Thon. (Friends can participate virtually.)

☺ Roast marshmallows over a campfire in the back yard.

  • What should you do if your child is experiencing nightmares?

VLS: Have them draw pictures of the dreams.  Once they see the pictures they can understand on a different level that the dream is a dream, and is not real.  Other art forms are useful as they process the outer world through their dreams.  Clay, paint, drawing, singing, and dancing are all helpful. With that being said, children are incredibly aware and their dreams may be based on “knowingness” that they have within.

DAD: While processing their artistic versions of their dreams, ask them how they felt during the dream. That will give you insight as to what emotions they’re feeling during the day. For some ideas about how to engage reluctant participants in conversation, check out this post

Thank you so much for your insights, Dr. Valerie Lane Simenson!

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