This is a complicated time to be a parent! The COVID-19 pandemic has continued to create more and more disruption to our regular routines. As parents, we are stressed and worried ourselves about everything from our health to our job stability to finding childcare and keeping up with online school. Our children have found their routines turned upside-down, with school closed through the end of the year, limited access to family and friends, and changes in parents' work schedule and location.
Children are creatures of habit, and all the changes around them can cause kids to feel afraid or worried. Here are some tips for talking to children about the pandemic:
1. Reassure them-- Remind children that doctors and scientists and leaders are working very hard to keep all of us safe. The changes we are all making are good changes to help keep people well.
2. Avoid too much media-- Remember that even young children soak up the things they see and hear. Children may not be able to understand or process scary words, pictures, or videos they see on the news or online. If you are watching media with your children, make sure to check in with them on what they are hearing/seeing/understanding. Or consider keeping media off when children are around, so you can control what information they get.
3. Model good behavior for them and give them control-- Talk to your kids about things they can do to stay safe, like washing their hands and staying far from other people. Show them what to do, by following guidelines yourself
4. Maintain positive relationships and routines-- Keep routines as you are able at home. Set a regular wake-up time. Keep a meal schedule, and enjoy opportunities to eat together as a family. Maintain a regular bedtime, just like when school is in session. Use video chats and phone calls to stay in touch with friends and family, who can be a great support during difficult times!
Keep an eye on your children for signs of anxiety or depression.
Mood changes in children can show up like you might expect-- they may tell you they are feeling worried or sad. However, many children and teenagers have trouble finding the words for their feelings. Often, mood changes in kids can show up as irritability, behavior problems, or sleep problems. Sometimes kids will even have physical symptoms that can be related to their feelings, such as stomach aches or headaches. Listen to your children and reassure them. If you have concerns or questions, or if you are worried about your child, don't hesistate to reach out to us!
Resources for more information:
www.healthychildren.org (The AAP website has lots of articles on helping children cope with stress and anxiety)
https://www.schoolcrisiscenter.org/resources/covid-19-pandemic-resources/ (Video presentation with tips for talking to children)
https://www.naeyc.org/resources/pubs/tyc/feb2018/being-helper-supporting-children-feel-safe-and-secure-after-disasters (Guidance for responding to specific behaviors in children)
www.211.org (Website to connect families to local resources, including counseling)
1-800-715-4225 GA Crisis and Access Line (phone number for addressing mental health crises, as well as connecting families with counseling and mental health resources)