Category: <span>Anxiety</span>

Back to school after COVID-19 Dr. Marisa van Niekerk Educational Psychologist Midstream Pretoria

Back to school after COVID-19

Back to school after COVID-19

Children will be going back to school after COVID-19. Many parents are struggling with the following question, “Am I doing the right thing to send my child back to school now?”

Back to school after COVID-19 Dr. Marisa van Niekerk Educational Psychologist Midstream Pretoria

Parents are wrestling with the decision to send their children back to school. This question triggers many emotions within parents. What complicates this question is that each family has a unique situation and circumstances.

Some facts to consider

Dr. Fiona Kritzinger, a paediatric pulmonologist (child lung specialist) from Cape Town says the following about going back to school:

  • Children don’t play such a significant role in passing on the COVID-19 virus to others.
  • It seems that less children are infected by COVID-19 than originally assumed.

Back to school after COVID-19 Dr. Marisa van Niekerk Educational Psychologist Midstream Pretoria

  • Children’s symptoms are very mild and in most cases unnoticed.
  • Italy’s COVID-19 death rate is 80 000 of which no one was a child.
  • Studies indicate that 80% of children who will get sick will have mild symptoms which won’t be more severe compared with other corona viruses like flu and influenza of past years.
  • Less than 5% of children will really get sick and need oxygen.
  • In South Africa between 500 – 600 children die of influenza every year. The risk for a child to be infected with COVID-19 is thus in context with previous year’s influenza rates.
  • What differs with COVID-19 is the number of people who might be infected as well as the heavy load that might be put on our health care systems.
  • Parents also fear the risk of other vulnerable family members. High risk ages are below one year and above 65 years of age.
  • Children are usually more affected by viral infections like the “normal” virus and upper airway infections. Therefore kids have circling anti-bodies, which help to prevent COVID-19.
  • The COVID-19 virus which binds to people’s cells, doesn’t bind well to children’s cells.

Back to school after COVID-19 Dr. Marisa van Niekerk Educational Psychologist Midstream Pretoria

Simple acts can make the most difference

Dr. Kritzinger, further highlights the effectiveness of:

  • Washing hands,
  • Not touching the face,
  • Wearing of masks (although pre-schoolers tend to constantly touch their masks as it seems to be uncomfortable, shift around, hurt their ears, and more).

These three basic personal hygiene steps would go a long way in protecting our children (and ourselves) when they go back to school.

Back to school after COVID-19 Dr. Marisa van Niekerk Educational Psychologist Midstream Pretoria

Dr. Kritzinger indicated that should all precautions be in place from both the home and the school’s side, children can go back to school.

In another article about going back to school after COVID-19, written by two epidemiologists*, of which one specialises in infectious diseases mentions the following facts:

  • Children are often assumed to be important conduits of infectious disease. This is true for influenza (or the common cold), but there is little evidence that children are important drivers of the COVID-19 spread.
  • Children can acquire the disease, but the symptoms are often mild or completely unnoticed.
  • Initial data from studies in China and Iceland show that children are not good transmitters of the virus.

Back to school after COVID-19 Dr. Marisa van Niekerk Educational Psychologist Midstream Pretoria

  • In detailed contact tracing from China, Korea and other countries, epidemiologists have encountered few instances in which children formed part of a transmission chain.
  • In places where schools remained open, such as Iceland, there is no evidence they were important places of transmission. One detailed investigation of an infected nine-year-old boy in France did not detect a single secondary case after he had contact with 112 peers and adults at three different schools during his symptomatic period.
  • The article clarifies that children are defined as elementary-school age and younger.
  • It is thought that teens and adolescents have similar transmission roles as adults.


Back to school after COVID-19 Dr. Marisa van Niekerk Educational Psychologist Midstream Pretoria

In a recent article published in Loving and Living** the author mentions that going back to school might be less uncomfortable for your child as it is may be for you. “Remember, your child trusts school as a safe space. They don’t have your anxieties about infections and risks – so don’t tell them anything that may lead to their worrying.”

Back to school after COVID-19, some practical tips

This article further highlights three practical things you as parent can do at home, to prepare your child for going back to school:

  • Talk to them about the changes that they can expect, for instance that the classroom might look different than before. Let them practice wearing a mask, and wash hands.
  • Your child might experience a certain amount of separation anxiety after spending so much time at home. Remind them about what the enjoyed at school, and the benefits of going to school, seeing friends again etc.
  • Most importantly, make your child feel safe. Remind them that some countries have already passed the most dangerous point in the pandemic, and that we as a country have a plan to fight the virus as well.
  • Remind the older kids that they would be playing an important role to help the smaller kids adapt to school again.

Back to school after COVID-19 Dr. Marisa van Niekerk Educational Psychologist Midstream Pretoria


You can download a free eBook about going back to school picture tips by clicking here.

For more information about educational psychology and child development, please connect with me on Facebook or Twitter.



RSG Radiostasie and KykNET (May 2020)

* Parents are in two minds: Should I send my child back to school or not? National Post, Jay S. Kaufman and Joanna Merckx, April 22, 2020

** 3 things to do before your kids return to school, Published: May 29, Author Lisa Witepski, Loving and Living

The world is temporarily closed COVID-19, coronavirus

Regain control of your life during COVID-19 lockdown

Need to regain control of your life during COVID-19 lockdown?

How to regain structure in a world struck by the Corona virus?

The Corona virus came unexpectedly and with force. It turned our instant and fast lives upside down. When we opened your eyes the next morning it was still there, it became our new reality, a very unwelcome reality. Let’s explore how to regain control of your life during this time?

The corona virus overwhelms our lives. Worst of all, we start to realize that the Corona virus or Covid-19 virus will stay with us for a while, unless a cure or vaccine is found. The corona virus took over all parts of our being, especially since the introduction of the lockdown period in South Africa, and many parts of the world.

Regain control of your life during COVID-19 lockdown
Regain control of your life during COVID-19 lockdown

It is impacting us socially (we can’t go out and spend time with others), emotionally (we feel down, depressed , anxious, angry, etc.), physically (we can’t go for a walk, jog and gyms don’t count as an essential service (!)), and mentally (our thoughts keep on coming back to the corona virus).

What I hear as educational psychologist from clients, the media and from experiences in my own life every day, the Corona virus evokes emotions like anxiety, anger, fear, sadness, loss of control, depression and many more. People want to know why they feel so knocked off their feet all the time. They want to know what’s wrong with them or whether they are loosing their minds.

No, you haven’t lost your mind

Corona caused tremendous losses in our lifes which implies aspects like routine, space, jobs, income, freedom, social life and control. The moment when we loose something, we experience a loss. During any loss we’ll move back and forth between the following phases:

  • Denial
  • Anger
  • Negotiation
  • Acceptance.

It is quite natural to experience the phases of loss mentioned above, and people spend different amounts of time in each of these phases. Don’t worry too much if you spend too much time in a phase, however, if you are really stuck in one of these phases, and it is interfering too much with your life, do contact me for a consultation.

Regain control of your life during COVID-19 lockdown: What to do

What can I do to make Covid-19 better?

Questions which arises are “What can I do to make Covid-19 better?” or “How can I regain control in my life?” Research tells us when dealing with a loss and trauma, structure plays an important part in regaining a sense of control in your lives. The most important aspect is to get a routine, similar to the one before Covid-19 existed, for instance:

  • Get up at the same time each morning.
  • Don’t get up too late (this means that you should also go to bed on a decent time the night before).
  • Exercise (in your house if you can’t go outside). Any form of exercise can work, and no excuse is accepted. Walking inside your house, or garden counts; skip, jump on one leg, put on a happy song and dance for a few minutes.
  • Take a shower.
  • Put on your clothes, make-up, comb your hair – look in the mirror and see a well taken care of picture of yourself.
  • Do what you normally do during the week, for example working, keeping your kids busy, etcetera.
  • Take a break and have coffee / tea outside, together with your family members – if they are there (sunshine provides vitamin D which adds to your positive feelings).
  • Go back to work and remember to take regular breaks. Put on a happy song during your second break to lift up your feelings.
  • Go for a walk after work.
  • Read / do something that you never have time for (make a list and tick them off every day).
  • Spend time with your family, or on your own if you are alone, make a nice fire, play a board game, spend time on your hobby or do something new or something that you like).
  • Prepare and enjoy some good, healthy food.
  • Drink enough water.
  • Clean up your kitchen and house.
  • Get enough sleep.
  • Have time apart from the television and internet, as it might easily become all that you do most of the time.
  • Be brave: this implies spending time on your own and “face” your fear, anger, anxiety, frustration, etcetera.
  • CONTROL what you can, which are all indicated above.
Regain control of your life during COVID-19 lockdown
Regain control of your life during COVID-19 lockdown

Regain control of your life during COVID-19 lockdown: Structure equals routine

If you want to regain control of your life, you need routine. Routine, even if you aren’t a very routine person, brings structure into our lives when it seems to be falling apart. The moment when you realise that there are things that you can control and start doing them, you will discover that routine provides you with a sense of security. Control and security cause our brains to release “feeling good hormones” of which endorphin is one. The challenge is however to stick to a routine.

Isn’t it time to take up the challenge of setting a proper routine and to regain a sense of structure in your life?

For more relevant information, please connect with me on my Facebook page.

Talking to kids about the Coronavirus (COVID-19)

Talking to kids about the Coronavirus (COVID-19)

The Coronavirus (COVID-19) is causing widespread panic and anxiety throughout the world. For us as adults, information about the virus is quite readily available, but what about our children? What do they hear, and understand about the Coronavirus?

Talking to kids about the Coronavirus

Below are a few pictures that can help you explain the Coronavirus (COVID-19) to your children, to help ease their anxiety, and empower them with knowledge about what the virus is, what is does, and how the spread of the virus can be contained.

You can also download this free PDF copy of the story here.Explaining the Coronavirus to kids

Explaining the Coronavirus to kids

Explaining the Coronavirus to kids


Explaining the Coronavirus to kids


Explaining the Coronavirus to kids

Explaining the Coronavirus to kids


Explaining the Coronavirus to kids

Explaining the Coronavirus to kids

Explaining the Coronavirus to kids

Explaining the Coronavirus to kids


The above images are credited with thanks to MANUELA MOLINA, @MINDHEART.KIDS, WWW.MINDHEART.CO.


Exam stress tips for parents Midstream Pretoria Centurion

Exam stress tips for parents

Exam stress tips for parents

This time of the year exams stress is at the order of the day.  It is a time that can be extremely stressful for parents (most of the time for moms) and their children.  Sometimes parents even tend to have more exams stress than their children.  So here are some exam stress tips for parents.

Exam stress tips for parents: Introduction

Parents often ask the question “How can I better support my child during exams”.  There are a few basic things which you as a parent can do different these exams.

Exam stress tips for parents: Tip 1 – selftalk

Be aware of your selftalk. What do you say to yourself and what do you say to your child during this busy and stressful time? This words that you say to yourself is called your selftalk – the things you tell yourself. Do you perhaps say things like “I don’t know how we are going to get through the exams”, “It’s going to be a terrible time of fighting in our house again”, “I don’t even know where to start”, “How am I going to get time for all that I need to do together with the exams”, “I’m a nervous wreck”, etcetera.

The words that you tell yourself set free either feeling good (for example endorphin) or feeling bad (for example cortisol) hormones in your brain. You can explain it to your child that the hormones is like feeling good or feeling bad ‘juice”. Therefore change your selftalk to things like “We are going to be a strong team this exams”, “It will go well”, “You can do it”, “You’ve done it so many times before”, “You are a star”, “Let’s just keep going”, etcetera. Start today to set free “feeling good juice” in your brain and support your child to do it as well.

Exam stress tips for parents: Tip 2 – Take care of yourself first

Take care of yourself as parent first. In an aeroplane part of the safety procedures before all flights take off is, “Should there be an emergency, and oxygen masks drop from the panel above you, attend to yourself first before you help your children or any other person”. Get your ducks, as parent, in a row first by doing the following exam stress tips for parents:

  • Get enough sleep.
  • Drink enough water (plus/minus 6 – 8 glasses per day).
  • Eat healthy.
  • Go for daily walks with your children (15 minutes will make a big difference).

If you feel there’s no time, make time and see the difference that will add to a more positive atmosphere at home.

Exam stress tips for parents: Tip 3 – brain gym

Do some brain gym. Brain gym exercises are movement exercises which “switch” your brain on and make it more sharp.

Exam stress tips for parents: brain gym, midstream estate
Exam stress tips for parents: brain gym

For more info on brain gym exercises go to the brain gym SA site. Do the brain gym exercises together with your child before school, before he starts studying and again if he / she gets exhausted during study time. Just don’t do brain gym before bedtime as it might make it difficult for your child to fall asleep.

Exam stress tips for parents: Tip 4 – Reduce overall stress levels in your home

Change the overall stressful atmosphere at home by:

  • Taking frequent short walks.
  • Ask your child to play his / her favourite inspiring song to you and just dance together (or just listen).
  • Build in a special tradition (which will last for the rest of your life) like having coffee, tea, etcetera together at a certain time each night. Just be together and relax.
  • Hit a pillow or a boxing bag.
  • Acknowledge your own and your child’s emotions. Take time out if needed as a fight will cause setting free bad “juice”.
  • Don’t preach, shout, scold, criticize your child, but in stead tell him / her it’s “time out” time and go and drink a glass of water, walk around the house, go to the bathroom in order to calm down and to be able to think logically again.


Exam stress tips for parents - reduce overall stress levels in the home
Exam stress tips for parents – reduce overall stress levels in the home

Exam stress tips for parents: Summary

Helping your child cope with exam stress starts with helping yourself as parent cope with “exam stress“.  I hope the “exam stress tips for parents” above would help you achieve that goal.

Just implement these exam stress tips for parents and make this exams the best ever and invest for the future exams as well. You can do it!

Exam stress tips for parents midstream pretoria

Exam stress management

Exam stress management: Introduction

Few words can cause so much anxiety and stress than the word “exam”. The mere mentioning of the word can cause people of all ages from getting a good night’s sleep, and is some cases can even lead to more severe symptoms.

So what can we as parents do to help our children cope better with these stresses?

Below is some extracts from an article by Kerry Acheson, entitled “Coping With Exams: How Parents Can Help”. The full article is available from
Exam stress
We know the following about exams:
Exams are stressful events;
Exams cause dread and a feeling of butterflies in the stomach;
Exams are inescapable;
Exams can cause anxiety, nightmares, stress and worrying.

Ways in which a parent can support his child with exam stress:

Support your child to gain more control over his exams by dividing his subjects into small tasks and to make exam notes every afternoon.  Keep the atmosphere at home as calm and quiet as possible.

Teach your child to be self-aware by observing his:
Ø thoughts
Ø feelings and
Ø body when he gets anxious.

Encourage your child to catch and replace negative thoughts.

Put up affirmation statements around the house, for example:
Ø I do my best every day;
Ø I take the exams one step at a time;
Ø I can do it;
Ø I achieve my goals every day;
Ø I am calm and relaxed.

Deep breathing exercises and/or seeing a peaceful scene in his mind can be effective in reducing exam stress and anxiety.  Also, help your child to develop a study schedule.

Exam stress management: preparation is key

A study schedule is made by:
Ø Calculate the available days for studying until the end of the exams.
Ø Estimate the needed hours of study.
Ø Divide the needed study hours between the days on the study schedule.
Ø Schedule the harder study times to the times of the day that your child is most alert.
Ø Review and adapt the study schedule along the way.
Ø Tick off each completed study session to gain a sense of progress and achievement.
Ø Encourage your child to have breakfast in the morning.

Exam stress management: On the day

On the day of the exam:
Ø Do deep breathing exercises;
Ø Calmly “imagine” the exam procedure;
Ø Use positive affirmations – tell yourself you will do well;
Ø If your child experiences “going blank” encourage him to do the breathing exercises and affirmations;
Ø Encourage your child to tell himself: “…it’s ok to be nervous, this will pass….”..

Mastering exam preparation is an art. It will take consistency from both you as a parent as well as your child to change his exam coping skills, and manage his exam stress.

Separation anxiety: Psychologist Midstream, Centurion, Pretoria

Separation anxiety

Separation anxiety: Introduction

With the new school year that started a few weeks ago, I had quite a view questions from parents on how to deal with separation anxiety (in this instance I’m referring to the situation where the child is afraid to get separated from the parent and / or guardian – as there is also separation anxiety where the parent experiences anxiety when he / she has to be separated from the child). The most frequent example of so called separation anxiety is a child who doesn’t want you to leave after you dropped him at school. Read more

Stress at work, educational psychologist, midstream centurion pretoria

Get the most out of your work day

There are many emotional issues that find a corner in our heart, and refuse to die down. With time, these issues can transform into a sort of emotional tumor that impacts negatively on our daily life, such as lack of concentration, enthusiasm, self respect, will to change, encouragement, and so on. These issues can spiral into our lives in various ways and gets channelled into other zones, which can create problems in our professional life, relationships and health.

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Anxiety treatment Educational psychology Midstream Centurion Pretoria

Anxiety treatment for better tomorrow

Anxiety is something that exists in everyone’s life to a certain extent, and in a way it is medically known to be helpful as well. Because, anxiety helps us stay alert and be reactive to our circumstances, whether joyful or painful. However, when the anxiety reaches the stage where it overwhelms you mentally and physically, and affects your normal routine of life, you need the help of a experienced psychologist.

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