Dr. Matt Biel on How to Help Our Kids Manage Their Fears and Worries
We thoroughly enjoyed our live chat with Dr. Matthew Biel, chief of child and adolescent psychiatry at Georgetown University Medical Center. Our takeaway? Among the many suggestions and insights Dr. Matt shared with us was a reminder to keep our sights on the micro and focus on “winning the hour” instead of the day. But when it comes to the macro, perhaps the most helpful — and easiest to follow — piece of advice is to remember that what our kids need most from us right now is love.
If you missed the live event, you can watch it here!
Below, we’ve included some of the highlights from Dr. Matt’s talk, as well as a list of resources to help our kids manage their fears and worries about the coronavirus. (These resources were compiled at the start of the pandemic, but the advice is helpful during any time of stress and anxiety!) From books and articles to websites and apps, we hope these little discoveries will be helpful to you as you continue to navigate the constantly changing environment we’re in.
"Resilience, more than almost anything else that we might consider a characteristic, is earned — it’s earned through trials and tribulations, it’s earned through hardship, it’s earned through creative and durable response to adversity. From what I know about the Undivided community, this is a group that is rich in resilience — because raising a kid with durable challenges creates a durable hardiness in families."
What are the things to keep in mind when talking to kids about things that are difficult or adverse?
- Know your child. Every kid has their own personality, their own temperament, ways they react to new and unexpected things.
- Where is your child developmentally? The way you might talk to a 7-year-old who has autism versus a 7-year-old who has OCD versus a 7-year-old who’s got an intellectual disability are all different conversations.
- Take your child’s lead. There’s a tendency adults have when we’re anxious about something to overshare rather than taking a moment to pause and say, What does my child need to know in order to make sense of that for him or herself?
"I know what is on everyone’s mind: How do I possibly function as a home teacher, an instructor, a special ed teacher, a co-speech therapist or co-behavioral therapist or co-OT? I want to encourage folks to be compassionate with yourself, compassionate with your child, and modest in your ambitions as you think about what is possible to achieve each day. Be really concrete and specific. What’s a 15- or 20-minute chunk of learning, interaction, or challenge that you want to focus your attention on tomorrow? Let’s win that hour. If you win that hour, you win the day. Whatever happens beyond that is gravy."
A Boy and a Bear: The Children's Relaxation Book, by Lori Lite
With a little imagination, kids can help calm their worries. This story shows them just how to do that. For children aged 3–10.
David and the Worry Beast: Helping Children Cope with Anxiety, by Anne Marie Guanci
Learn how to conquer fears in this story about David, a little boy who worries a lot. For children aged 4–9.
Helping Your Anxious Child, by Ronald Rapee, Ann Wignall, Susan Spence, Heidi Lyneham and Vanessa Cobham
A guide for parents, Helping Your Anxious Child teaches parents cognitive-behavioral therapy techniques to help their children overcome anxiety, fears, and worries.
Mindfulness For Kids Who Worry, by Katie Austin
Aimed at ages 6–9, but with tools that can be useful at any age, this book is full of beautiful illustrations and mindfulness exercises for children.
Wemberly Worried, by Kevin Henkes
A little mouse worries about everything from spilling to shrinking while taking a bath. Things start to look up when she finds a friend who worries just as much as she does. For children aged 4–8.
What To Do When You Worry Too Much, by Dr. Dawn Heubner
By psychologist Dawn Huebner, this book is intended for children aged 6–12 to read with their parents; it uses metaphors and humorous illustrations to teach techniques used in cognitive-behavioral therapy to treat generalized anxiety.
Worry, Worry, Go Away! A Kid's Book about Worry and Anxiety, by Christine Adams
This book uses elves to help kids learn how to beat anxious feelings. For preschoolers through 3rd grade. (Note: contains Christian overtones.)
EdSurge, ‘Let Yourself Off the Hook’: Advice for Teachers and Parents During COVID-19, 3.24.20
EdSurge interviews Christine Elgersma, a senior editor of social media and learning resources at the nonprofit Common Sense Media, who offers some actionable advice for teachers and parents looking to better support their children and themselves. Among other points, she says that human connection is more critical than instructional time right now, and that educators and parents should let themselves off the hook a little bit, since these are unprecedented times and no one can be expected to handle it perfectly. This link has a full transcript of the talk.
Spawned Parenting Podcast, Helping teens who are struggling with social distancing, isolation and loss | Ep 194, 3.22.20
Art psychotherapist and licensed counselor Tina Montagna-Tate, MA, ATR-BC, LPC, has over 20 years of experience working with tweens, teens, and families, and shares her expertise in this episode of Spawned on how to help tweens and teens through this difficult time.
Spawned Parenting Podcast, Special Coronavirus Episode: How to talk to our kids and teens, with Dr. Kenneth Ginsburg | Ep 193, 3.12.20
In this episode, the moms of Cool Mom Picks interview Dr. Ken Ginsburg, pediatrician and adolescent expert from The Center for Parent and Teen Communication at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. This podcast has helpful advice on how to talk to our kids about the crisis with compassion, and the website is full of helpful links and resources.
Tilt Parenting, Thoughts on Parenting Differently Wired Kids Through a Pandemic, 3.23.20
Special short episode in which Tilt Parenting host Debbie Reber shares thoughts and ideas for contemplation surrounding parenting differently wired children through the coronavirus pandemic. This link provides a full transcript of the talk.
Tumble Science Podcast for Kids, Answering Kids’ Coronavirus Questions
While Tumble writes on their website that some of the details discussed in their first podcast for kids about the coronavirus have since,been updated as more information has become available, this is still an excellent source for kids to understand the virus. A follow-up podcast discusses where viruses come from. Both episodes are available in Spanish.
ADDitude Magazine, “Are You Corona Schooling? Daily Schedule Advice for ADHD Families,” 3.20 20
Practical tips for creating a daily schedule of school/life balance during the pandemic.
ADDitude Magazine, “How to Explain Coronavirus COVID-19 to a Child with Anxiety & ADHD,” 3.18.20
This article gives concrete, helpful guidance to help our children and ourselves manage anxiety and stress during these uncertain times.
Autism Speaks, “How to cope with disrupted family routines during COVID-19,” 3.20.20
Helpful tips as well as a video to help parents envision and plan for a modified version of their child’s school life at home.
Child Mind Institute, “Talking to Kids About the Coronavirus,” 3.13.20
The Child Mind Institute has built a frequently updated resource page about COVID-19 that is a good source of information to help parents support their child’s mental health. The article suggests ways to talk to your child in a developmentally appropriate manner about the pandemic, and includes a video interview with Dr. Jaime Howard, Child Mind’s Director of Trauma and Resilience Service.
“Homeschooling is NOT the Same as Crisis Schooling: Advice During Coronavirus COVID -19 Shut Downs,” by Heather Anne, 3.27.20
A homeschooling parent explains why the work that parents are having to do right now is not the same as homeschooling because it is based in crisis. She suggests a more realistic approach to curriculum during this time.
Kveller, “Schedules Are Everything for My Autistic Son. Here’s How We’re Coping Now,” 3.20.20
A parent discusses her autistic son's need to plan far in advance, and how she’s able to maintain compassion during a time when there is no ability to plan ahead.
KQED, “Exercise Tips To Help Kids, Teens and Families Stay Balanced at Home,” 3.18.20
This article contains fun and helpful links for at-home exercise routines for every member of the family.
The Mighty, “What to Do When Your Child on the Autism Spectrum's Routine Is Disrupted by the Coronavirus,” 3.14.20
Brief article with suggestions for maintaining a routine for your child with autism during this uncertain time.
National Alliance on Mental Illness, “Coronavirus: Mental Health Coping Strategies,” 3.20.20
This article gives practical guidance on how to identify symptoms of mental illness that can be triggered during the pandemic and what to do about them.
New York Times, “5 Ways to Help Teens Manage Anxiety About the Coronavirus,”3.11.20
A really helpful article with simple, digestible information on how to help a teen through this crisis in a developmentally appropriate manner by validating their anxiety, encouraging them toward social action, and allowing distraction while keeping your own parental anxiety in check.
Raising Lifelong Learners, “Helping Your Child Manage Anxiety During COVID-19”
An article with lots of helpful resources on helping kids deal with anxiety during this difficult time. The writer writes from the perspective of homeschooling an anxious twice-exceptional (2E) child.
“Supporting Individuals with Autism through Uncertain Times,” by Kara Hume, Ph.D., UNC School of Education, & UNC FPG Autism Team, 3.20.20
A well-structured PDF with helpful information and great infographics broken into seven strategies to help those with autism through difficult times.
Washington Post, “Helping autistic kids cope with the chaos and uncertainty of coronavirus,” 3.17.20
A helpful and well-researched article by a parent raising a child with autism on how to help neurodiverse children navigate the current health crisis in which we find ourselves.
Washington Post, “How to keep your cool with your kids when everyone is cooped up together,” 3.24.20
This article addresses a parent's need to recognize the smaller stress triggers to help combat larger blow-ups. It recommends regular meditation and body movement, lots of patience, and letting go of perfectionism.
COVID-19 Resources for Children with Special Health Care Needs, In-Home Virtual Care for Children with Complex Conditions During Social Distancing
Experts from four care programs around the country have recorded discussions about how they are “providing tele-health services for children with medical complexity during the COVID-19 outbreak.” The programs represented are Mercy Hospital in St. Louis, University of Texas in Houston, Children's National in Washington, DC, and Baystate Hospital in Massachusetts.
Dr. Ross Greene, “Collaboration in Trying Times,” 3.27.20
Dr. Ross Greene, author of The Explosive Child, hosted a live call-in show on March 27 on collaboration and parenting your challenging child during trying times; you can now listen to the archived conversation on Blog Talk Radio at the above link.
Hand in Hand Parenting
Hand in Hand Parenting is offering free support tools including 2 e-books and a free support call.
Seth Perler and Debbie Reber, “Debbie Reber & Seth Perler Parent Guidance during this difficult time,” 3.24.20
This is an archived webinar from Executive Functioning Coach Seth Perler, who is being interviewed by Debbie Reber from Tilt Parenting.
Common Sense Media, Resources for Families During the Coronavirus Pandemic
This is a resource page with links to many articles from Common Sense Media on the coronavirus. Topics include Understanding COVID-19 news coverage, how to stay calm for yourself and your kids, learning at home, and homework help.
Do Yoga With Me contains hundreds of online guided yoga classes; they are currently offering 2 months of classes for free. Info on their coronavirus offer here.
GoZen offers a program designed to help kids overcome anxiety using proven psychological research and therapeutic techniques. Their website explains it this way: “The program is broken down into six modules that teach your child how to understand, control, and manage their anxiety. The concepts are delivered over with 34 animations featuring fun, relatable characters in real-life situations.” The app is $197/year. (Insider tip: you can find many of their helpful videos for free on YouTube.)
Isle Of Calm: Stream 6 Hours Of Soothing Music
Six hours of free music created in March to reduce anxiety, curated by NPR.
SARTAC: Self Advocacy and Beyond, Plain Language Information on Coronavirus
This short booklet was created by and for people with disabilities, and explains the coronavirus in plain language, focusing on “need to know” and not “nice to know” information.
Monterey Bay Aquarium, The Zen of Moon Jellies
Calm yourself with the relaxing live video of jellyfish from the Monterey Bay Aquarium.
Breathe, Think, Do with Sesame
This app is intended for young children to help them learn self-control, problem-solving, and task persistence. To help an upset Sesame Street monster learn to calm down, children practice different techniques such as breathing exercises, popping bubbles, and making a plan. Free.
This app contains six beautifully designed “games” that help promote relaxation and calm. The games include activities such as building a garden, reaching a rainbow, and inhabiting a cherry blossom snowglobe. Free.
Calm contains hundreds of excellent guided meditations in varying lengths, with an entire section devoted to children. The app also offers music and bedtime stories. It’s free, but to access the complete catalogue, the cost is $69.99 per year.
Like Calm, Headspace contains guided meditations and music in varying lengths for the whole family. The Kids section features five themes: Calm, Focus, Kindness, Sleep, and Wake Up. The app is free, but to access the complete catalogue, it’s $69.99 per year. During the pandemic, they are offering free subscriptions to educators and healthcare professionals and a catalogue of meditations for businesses. Their COVID-19 page has a few sample meditations for free to aid in reducing anxiety.
This app contains 32,000 free guided meditations, and their section for kids includes topics on finding peace, falling asleep, “overcoming monkey mind,” and calming anxiety. Free.
This app introduces children to mindfulness through a series of voice-guided stories with the help of a playful monster named Flibbertigibbet. Flibbertigibbet is agitated and needs help calming down; by soothing him, the child is led to learn techniques to help them gain inner calm. Free.
This app teaches kids 12 different animal-inspired yoga poses via an animated superhero named Super Stretch. Kids can watch videos of children doing each pose and an explanation of how to do it; they can also choose a particular pose or do them in order. Reminders to breathe are given throughout. Free.