By: Allison Petro, LMHC
These are no doubt scary and strange times for everyone. The coronavirus pandemic has caused people’s lives to change across the globe. For those of us caring for children, it can feel overwhelming to help them cope when we feel like we are barely even holding it together ourselves.
Here are 7 tips to help your kids cope with the coronavirus pandemic surrounding us:
Don’t be afraid to talk to your kids about the coronavirus!
Keeping them in the dark can cause more anxiety and worry. Plus, you want to model that it’s important to talk about emotions even scary ones. For younger children, ask an open-ended question like, “do you have any questions about the changes that have been happening?”
Often, younger children simply need their questions answered to feel secure and safe. Empathize with their emotions so that they feel listened to and understood. Share age appropriate facts and correct any misinformation. Keep it simple and straight forward.
Reassure children that they are safe.
How you communicate this is just as important as what you say. Kids can pick up when we as adults feel anxious. Stay as calm as possible when chatting with them about the crisis and reassure them that things will eventually go back to normal.
Empower them to help.
Let them know that one of the best things they can do to help is to be germ busters! When children feel that they have some control over what is happening around them, they will experience less worry and anxietys.
Explain to them that hand-washing is one of the best things all of us can do to help keep the germs from jumping from person to person. Come up with a hand washing song to make it more fun for younger kids and practice this with them often.
Of course, you will also want to explain the importance of covering their nose and mouth when they sneeze or cough.
Limit the news you have on at the house.
This is for your sanity too! To stay informed, I would recommend checking the news when you wake up and then again before you go to bed and preferably when your children are not present. It’s important for adults to stay informed, but too much news can be very anxiety provoking for everyone.
If you have older kids, limit their screen time as much as possible. There is lots of misinformation floating around on social media and the internet in general and overexposure to this only drives up emotions.
Stick to a routine but don’t be too rigid.
We are hearing it everywhere- stick to a routine during this time. This is good advice for both children and adults, but I would recommend to not be too rigid. Keep a schedule, but if your child is having a difficult time, stop and chat. Give them a hug. Tell them it’s going to be ok.
Build in fun, quality time together.
One way you can do this on a regular basis is include your kids in normal, daily activities. For example, make your child your cooking helper while you make dinner or childcare assistant if he/she has a younger sibling.
For older children, learn a new game or skill together such as chess, how to change a car tire or teach them how to cook a favorite family recipe.
Give lots of hugs
Offer lots of physical affection daily to help kids feel secure. We as adults need this too! Remind your children that you are there for them with a simple hug or back scratch.
If you or your child is struggling to cope during this crisis, reach out to Allison at Life Counseling Solutions in Maitland, FL at 407-622-1770 to schedule an appointment. She is offering virtual sessions during this time of the coronavirus pandemic.
Allison Petro is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor specializing in couples, women’s issues, treating depression holistically, and children. For more information about the author visit her full bio here.