And A Child Shall Lead Them

The last four weeks have been like no other I have experienced in my lifetime. I, like so many others, wonder how this pandemic emergency will evolve in the near future. After the events of 9/11, I worked in New York City with families that were emotionally impacted, directly and indirectly, by that traumatic event. Four days after the terrorist attacks, I was walking the empty streets of New York from Penn Station to Fordham University on 60th St. It was surreal. The emptiness of the streets was unnerving. I walked with a sense of dread wondering if any of my classmates or teachers died. 

In so many ways, I believe we are again at a similar precipice that will change the world as we once knew it. No one can know what the outcome of this medical emergency will be. How will we cope when we learn the grim statistics that we cannot change? 

I spent this week, via zoom, interacting with many children. I wanted to see what was going through their minds. Their lives had been upended in so many ways. I expected to see a myriad of responses and was not disappointed. Some children were happy that they could be at home rather than school. Some were missing their friends and the social connections that was an integral part of their lives. Some were modeling the anxious behaviors being observed around them. Sometimes, they were living in situations that were stressful or dangerous before this occurrence. Their parents were already burdened by life stressors that were unmanageable. Some of the anxious children I was treating, did not want to video conference or speak on the phone. What can responsible adults do to help our precious children? 

As a lifelong learner, reading is important to me. It is my practice, as a therapist, to frequently update my knowledge and explore current research in the field. This week, I read an important article in the New York Times that was most helpful. The author ( coronavirus-help-anxious-kid.html?smid=em-share) outlines four ways to help anxious children. She features a theory developed by Dr. Thomas Boyce, MD, a pediatrician and researcher. In his work, he describes children as “orchids” or “dandelions”. “Orchids” are those children with great sensitivity. They are susceptible to changes in the environment and may have biological predispositions to make them more aware of stressors around them. “Dandelions” are described as those children who are more resilient and seem to cope better with the stressors around them. Our “orchids” are struggling more than usual now but this may not be evident to the adults around them. Having regular routines helps these children cope better. Our “dandelions” see and hear things that momentarily cause concern, but seem to be able to return to their activities without much disruption.

You may be wondering, how we can help our vulnerable children. We can acknowledge that life is changing around us. Let them know directly what things are changing and what remains the same. In my experience, turning learning into a game is most effective for children of all ages. It is critical that we deal with our own anxieties. This is no simple task. We must be truthful with ourselves about those concerns that may be causing sleepless nights or changes in our own routines. What affects adults, also affects children. Often, children are unable to express appropriate words to describe their feelings and many say “I don’t know” when questioned. They really do not know because many people are unable to process the depths of their feelings. Being mindful of the world around us is an effective skill we can learn to lessen anxiety. Currently, there are many free resources available on the web to help those who need guidance in meditating in an effective way. Do not be intimidated by using meditation daily. A word to any other perfectionists who are reading this: there is no proper way to meditate. All you need is to create some quiet time in your day. Find a quiet place to contemplate. Take deep breaths and redirect your thoughts to the present moment. I teach these techniques to children and adults as an effective way to deal with anxiety. Create and stick to a flexible schedule. Keep it simple. Exercise and play together inside or outside. We may be confined to our own spaces but we can take in the fresh air and feel the calming influences of nature around us in all its glory. 

God in all his glory, will not abandon His people. 

“At that time Jesus said, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children.” Matthew 11:25




Janet Siry, LCSW, received her Master’s in Social Work degree at Fordham University and a BS in Elementary Education from Valparaiso University. She has worked as a Licensed Clinical Social Worker for years and prior to this, she was a preschool teacher. As a school based social worker for four years, Mrs. Siry has counseled children, adolescents, families and adults and has facilitated group therapy sessions. She has a private practice in Setauket, NY. Mrs. Siry is a member of The American Academy of Experts in Traumatic Stress, the National Association of Social Workers (NASW), and was awarded Woman of the Year in Religion in 2005. She counsels children, teens, adults, couples and families.