Helping Children with the Emotional Impacts of COVID-19
Physical distancing. Shortened school years. Quarantine. Closed playgrounds and cancelled play dates. Boredom. Economic turmoil. Everyone wearing masks and gloves outside or in stores. Fear over loved ones getting sick.
The impact of COVID-19 has had far reaching effects. It has caused angst, sadness and people young and old alike are left grappling with the new world as we know it.
While things around the country are slowing starting to open and settle into a new normal, there is still a lot to consider. For many people, they are thinking about the ‘what ifs’ in addition to the ‘how tos’ of working, raising a family, and juggling the risks of encountering the coronavirus. How do you continue to protect yourself and your family? What happens if another round of coronavirus hits the country later?
It is an unprecedented time that often makes us feel powerless and out of control. Thinking about everything can incite real anxiety, fear, and for some, bouts of depression. For others, it can trigger serious mental health issues – even in children. So, how do we get through these hardships and help our kids process their emotions at the same time? Here are some ideas.
#1: Encourage communication
It can be difficult to find ways to talk about serious things happening in the world with little ones. But, creating opportunities for children and teens to talk about their feelings is an important life skill to be taught. Casually check in with your child while in the midst of other activities such as preparing or cleaning up from a meal, or running an errand. Tailor the conversation according to the age of the child.
Parents and nannies should discuss ahead of time what topics are okay to talk about and what things aren’t, so they are on the same page. It is also important to take into consideration that some children are more sensitive than others and conversations may need to be limited because of that. Encourage your kids to communicate their feelings through art or other creative methods, too. This can be therapeutic for them and can give you insight into how they are processing current events.
#2: Minimize media intake.
Most kids are surrounded by electronics and media all day, every day. It is important to limit their screen time – especially when it comes to what they are seeing online. News feeds are continuously reporting serious issues that can be scary, and your children don't need to hear them.
#3: Maintain schedules and routines.
Consistency is an important aid to help your child manage his or her feelings. Regular times for awakening, meals, schooling and bedtimes create the calming factor of a predictable routine in a time of uncertainty.
#4: Put the oxygen mask on yourself first.
It is vital that you too model healthy emotional responses to life's stresses. Practice self-care and make sure you get adequate sleep and exercise. Seek help if you are feeling overwhelmed. And remember, things that help you manage stress can translate to your children. Take a walk together, Prepare a meal together. Most parents are spending more time together with their children than ever - an important silver lining in a difficult time.