The Impact of Parental Anxiety on Children

Parents are not only faced with anxiety around their own well-being, employment, mental health, etc., but also around making the correct decisions for, and supporting, their children.  While it is completely natural to experience anxiety, it is vitally important that as parents, we do not transfer our anxieties onto our children.  How can we prevent this from happening?

  • Looking after your own mental health
    • Limit amount of time on social media and news channels
    • Only use reputable sources for information
    • Focus on the things you can control
    • Have a routine
    • Practice good sleep hygiene
    • Eat healthy
    • Hydrate frequently
    • Exercise
    • While working, follow the 55-5 rule (55 min seated working, 5 min walking around)
    • Have a dedicated work space separate from a leisure space
    • Plan for what you can
    • Stay connected with loved ones and friends
    • Take time off to do things you enjoy
    • Get into nature if possible
    • Avoid self-medicating (this includes alcohol and other substances)
    • Practice mediation or deep breathing exercises
  • Communicate:
    • At an age appropriate level with your child/ren
    • Be kind and supportive
    • Allow them to ask questions
    • Do not discuss topics with your partner in front of children if these are not age appropriate
    • Work with children to set up rules during home-learning and living
    • Routines and structure are important
    • Discipline in a positive manner (e.g. talk about the behaviour you want to see, rather than focus on the negative / undesirable behaviour)
    • Normalise their fears around safety and reflect that you are being extra cautious to do everything possible to protect your family
  • Spend Time:
    • Quality time interacting is important (e.g. family games, walks, playing)
    • Spend meaningful time on screens (e.g. read stories together)
    • Ensure that they spend time connecting socially not only learning on screens
    • Time and communication with extended family members and friends is important
    • Spend time together while helping others (e.g. making sandwiches for the needy, knitting squares to make blankets)
  • Access to Technology:
    • Ensure parental controls are in place on all devices
    • Ensure that privacy settings are on
    • Educate children around safe technology use (e.g. never provide your address or personal information to strangers, do not send photo’s to people you do not know)
    • Monitor them when being online – be aware of any secretive behaviour
    • Limit screen time during times when you can engage with your child
  • Model & Encourage Healthy Online Habits
    • Encourage children to maintain their manners as if they were face-to-face in class
    • Be kind and respectful on video/voice calls
    • Be mindful of what they wear and where they use the device (e.g. if they need to go to the toilet, not to take the device with them)

Where parental anxiety is transferred to children, we will typically see:

  • Heightened anxiety
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Regression to behaviours that they had already outgrown
  • Becoming more clingy / show separation anxiety
  • Have difficulty regulating their emotions
  • Not be able to self-sooth
  • Acting out behaviours
  • Attention-seeking
  • Wanting parents to be involved continuously
  • Inability to play on their own
  • Concentration difficulties
  • Defiance
  • Not wanting to engage in online learning
  • Increased conflict between parent-child and siblings

If you see any of these signs or other incidents that concern you for an extended period, you should contact a Psychologist to help you and your child.  Children from the age of 2 until 12 will engage in play therapy, while older children and adolescents engage in “talk” therapy.

Supporting Children Returning to School during Covid-19

The South African Government has announced the phasing in of learners returning to face-to-face teaching. This has caused two camps to rise: those for children returning and those against children returning to school. I am not going to choose sides, rather focus on how to support children as they go back to school.

Firstly, we need to be aware that many individuals may struggle with anxiety and fear on returning to school. We also need to realize that while children may not show signs of difficulties initially, these may arise as they are faced with new processes on entering schools and interacting with peers and teachers through physical distancing – this is going to be particularly difficult for younger children. As children get used to their new realities during Covid-19, as well as the uncertainty of it’s duration, the prolonged effect may well give rise to an increase in mental illness.

So how do we support all children as we ourselves learn to navigate the waters of our new (hopefully temporary) reality (while managing our own anxieties and fears)? How do we support children who may have, or who may be at risk of mental illness?

  1. Clinically vulnerable children should not return to school but should be supported through online learning.
  2. Children who live in homes with vulnerable individuals should only attend school if strict hygiene and physical distancing is practiced. The child needs to be old enough to be able to understand these practices and be able to carry them out.
  3. Age-appropriate education around Covid-19 is important. This should be implemented in the home as well as the school environment.
  4. Children should be taught good hand hygiene practices at home before returning to school.
  5. Educate children about physical distancing and physical contact and the spread of Covid-19.
  6. Teach children to wear masks independently where a child is able to put on or remove a mask without assistance. For young children, a face mask may be considered – the use of these should also be practiced prior to going back to school.
  7. Talk to children about their thoughts and feelings around returning to school. Normalize their feelings and offer support.
  8. Explain the changes they can expect on returning to school (most schools are providing parents with the procedures that will be implemented).
  9. Keep having conversations with children about their experiences and feelings as the days and weeks after returning to school progress.
  10. Good communication with your child’s teacher is key.

Lockdown Level 3 Services Available Online or Face-to-face

Caring for Covid Carers

I have the privilege of being able to be part of an amazing initiative called #Caring4CovidCarers. After a fantastic 2 hours of connecting with colleagues through training this morning, I am reminded again of the need to support those on our front line. I am also reminded that those on the front line may not be aware of my previous offer of support during this pandemic and through reminders such as this one, word can be spread that no one is alone in this.

If you need to reach out, please do not hesitate to contact me. I am still offering pro bono counselling sessions during the Covid-19 pandemic to all health care workers (doctors, nurses, allied health care providers on the front-line, hospital administration staff, and even staff working in hospitals in procurement and storage, cleaners, etc.). It will not only be our doctors and nurses needing support in the coming weeks and months.

Thank you for all that has been done to date, and all that you will still do.

(T): 076 562 8271



Pro-Bono Online Support for Healthcare Workers

During this most unusual and stressful time, the importance of supporting mental health needs to be highlighted. Even more so for our critical care healthcare workers who are placed at the front line in fighting this pandemic and cannot be shielded from the reality of it. In fact, they are faced with extreme circumstances, anxiety and trauma in which they need to continue their work. They are also often faced with being isolated from their families and their support structures.

In light of this, I am offering pro-bono online sessions to Critical Healthcare workers in South Africa during the lock down period.

Please contact me on 076 562 8271 or

Co-Parenting during the COVID-19 Lockdown in South Africa

There has been much uncertainty about shared contact of children during the upcoming COVID-19 lockdown in the country.

With some parents intent on following the court orders which are in place and the agreement within their existing parenting plans, we need to be cognisant that with the directive of the president, this may be superseded.

The best approach to a challenging situation is to appeal to common sense and the need to protect the vulnerable (your children). The fact is, with moving between homes, they are placed at risk where that risk would not be present would parents agree to have children remain at one residence. There is also no guarantee that a home may not have had the virus brought into it prior to the lockdown (remember you could have contracted the virus and not be showing symptoms yet).

While lockdown is in progress, opportunities to have contact with the other parent are vital. Face time, WhatsApp video calls, Skype, Zoom, etc can be utilised to ensure that the child can “see” a parent as well as the parent “see” them. With little ones this can be challenging as their attention spans are not very long, so perhaps have 2 calls a day? With older children, there are online games that can also be brought into the contact time in order to spend more time “together”. Once the lockdown is over, parents can make up time with increased contact to even out fair access.

As parents, you have parental rights, but you also have parental responsibilities. It is your responsibility to act in the best interest of your children. Keep them safe, keep them in contact with the other parent and family members, maintain as much as possible social interactions through engaging with friends, etc. We all need to work together to try and “flatten the curve”.

For further guidance, read this post by FAMSA:

Online Therapy (Tele-therapy / Tele-Mental Health)

In light of the recent developments as a result of COVID-19, it is pertinent to take care of our physical health as well as our mental health. With social distancing, and now, lock-downs having resulted in restrictions of movement, South African President, Cyril Ramaposa, announced on 23 March 2020 that South Africa will go into a 21 day (3-week) lock-down at midnight on 26 March 2020 until 16 April 2020. South Africans are going to have to adapt to our new “normal” – at least for the time being.

Online Therapy is a platform that will allow continued mental health support through online Psychotherapy, Play Therapy, Parental Guidance and even Group Therapy. I have made the decision to move my practice online, therefore, allowing greater access to therapy and the support it provides in a time where many may feel heightened anxiety, depression and other mental health difficulties.

Coronavirus (COVID-19)

With an International Pandemic and many countries, including South Africa, putting drastic measures in place to curb the spread of COVID-19, education is key.

What is it?

Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is an infectious disease caused by a newly discovered coronavirus.

Most people infected with the COVID-19 virus will experience mild to moderate respiratory illness and recover without requiring special treatment.  Older people, and those with underlying medical problems like cardiovascular disease, diabetes, chronic respiratory disease, and cancer are more likely to develop serious illness.

The best way to prevent and slow down transmission is be well informed about the COVID-19 virus, the disease it causes and how it spreads. Protect yourself and others from infection by washing your hands or using an alcohol based rub frequently and not touching your face.

The COVID-19 virus spreads primarily through droplets of saliva or discharge from the nose when an infected person coughs or sneezes, so it’s important that you also practice respiratory etiquette (for example, by coughing into a flexed elbow).

At this time, there are no specific vaccines or treatments for COVID-19. However, there are many ongoing clinical trials evaluating potential treatments. WHO will continue to provide updated information as soon as clinical findings become available. (Accessed Online:


The COVID-19 virus affects different people in different ways.  COVID-19 is a respiratory disease and most infected people will develop mild to moderate symptoms and recover without requiring special treatment.  People who have underlying medical conditions and those over 60 years old have a higher risk of developing severe disease and death.

Common symptoms include:

  • fever
  • tiredness
  • dry cough.

Other symptoms include:

  • shortness of breath
  • aches and pains
  • sore throat
  • and very few people will report diarrhoea, nausea or a runny nose.

People with mild symptoms who are otherwise healthy should self-isolate and contact their medical provider or a COVID-19 information line for advice on testing and referral.

People with fever, cough or difficulty breathing should call their doctor and seek medical attention. (Accessed Online:

A Parent’s Guide to Play Therapy


For further information, please contact Megan Clerk, Educational Psychologist.

Contact Number: 076 562 8271