Children can no longer attend school, playdates, after-school activities or something as simple as hanging out with friends due to the coronavirus pandemic. This “new normal,” even if temporary, can be especially hard on children. By adopting coping techniques, parents can help their children – and themselves – navigate this challenging time more smoothly.
According to the experts, one of the best coping techniques is to discuss what is happening honestly, but simply avoid overwhelming children with information.
“Honesty is the best approach to helping your child emotionally with this new life adjustment,” said Adrianne Muntz, clinical social worker of Warren. “Much like anyone else, children are experiencing adjustment. There were no preludes or buffers to aid our children. Although history prepared us for epidemics reflecting on H1NI, and Ebola within the past there has not been devastation quite like this since the Spanish Flu. Therefore, children are reasonably worried and honestly, they may not like the outcome.”
Muntz says it’s important for parents to explain to their children why staying home is so important.
“Parents should let their children know that It’s safer for them to be home until the medical professionals have the virus under control. You can also say, ‘the best way to make sure you stay healthy is to stay at home,’’ says Muntz.
According to Dr. Janine Domingues, a child psychologist in an interview with Child Mind Institute, parents should not be afraid to discuss the coronavirus.
“Most children will have already heard about the virus or seen people wearing face masks, so parents shouldn’t avoid talking about it. Not talking about something can actually make kids worry more. Look at the conversation as an opportunity to convey the facts and set the emotional tone. “You take on the news and you’re the person who filters the news to your kid,” explains Domingues.
Your goal is to help your children feel informed and get fact-based information that is likely more reassuring than whatever they’re hearing from their friends or on the news, she stated.
Parents must deal with their mental health first before helping others, says Domingues.
“Deal with your own anxiety. When you’re feeling most anxious or panicked, that isn’t the time to talk to your kids about what’s happening with the coronavirus,” warns Dr. Domingues. “If you notice that you are feeling anxious, take some time to calm down before trying to have a conversation or answer your child’s questions.”
Krystal Morgan, 28, of Detroit says she is finding creative ways to keep her children focused on positive things during the crisis.
“I have a ten-year-old and a one-year-old, so I keep them busy and get very creative,” said Morgan. “We’ve been doing arts and crafts, board games, video chatting friends and family, playing cards games, and video games. I also let them go outside for an hour or so in the yard and that helps a lot.”
Morgan says she has advice for parents whose child suffers from anxiety due to COVID-19.
“Try to keep them busy! Do their favorite things with them. In my family, we even tried baking, she said. “Also, let them babies get fresh air. It actually helps build their immune system. So, walks up and down the block is perfect for a child with anxiety.”
Muntz believes mediation is also another key factor to dealing with anxiety during this time.
“Encourage the child to mediate, exercise, read, journal, write poetry/rap, and paint to express themselves,” she said. “Encourage monitored socialization through Tik Tok videos. The software is trendy and can be appropriate for various age groups. For older children, allow them to practice autonomy ask them their thoughts on the news, politics, and include them in the process of understanding the importance of our Census 2020 and the upcoming elections. Teach them their voices matter, by starting all necessary dialogue at home. Let them be honest and vulnerable as this is an adjustment to us all.”