Fear, uncertainty, and being holed up at home more to slow the spread of COVID-19 can make it tough for families to keep a sense of calm. But it’s important to help children feel safe, keep healthy routines, manage their emotions and behavior and build resilience.
Here are some tips from the American Academy (AAP) to help your family get through the stress of the pandemic.
Address children’s fears. Children rely on their parents for safety, both physical and emotional. Reassure your children that you are there for them and that your family will get through this together.
Answer questions about the pandemic simply & honestly. Talk with children about any frightening news they hear. It is OK to say people are getting sick, but remind them that following safety steps like hand washing , wearing cloth face coverings, and staying home more will help your family stay healthy.
Recognize your child’s feelings. Calmly say, for example, “I can see that you are upset because you can’t have a sleepover with your friends right now.” Guiding questions can help older children and teens work through issues. (“I know it is disappointing not to be able to do some of the things you did before the pandemic. What are some other ways you can have fun with your friends?”)
Keep in touch with loved ones. Children may also worry about a grandparent who is living alone or a relative or friend with an increased risk of getting COVID-19. When safe, physically distanced visits aren’t possible, video chats can help ease their anxiety.
Model how to manage feelings. Talk through how you are managing your own feelings. (“I am worried about Grandma since I can’t go visit her. I will put a reminder on my phone to call her in the morning and the afternoon until it is safe to see her.”)
Tell your child before you leave the house for work or essential errands. In a calm and reassuring voice, tell them where you are going, how long you will be gone, when you will return, and that you are taking steps to stay safe.
Look forward. Tell them that scientists are working hard to figure out how to help people who get sick, how to prevent it, and that things will get better.
Offer extra hugs and say “I love you” more often.
Keep healthy routines. During the pandemic, it is more important than ever to maintain bedtime and other routines. They create a sense of order to the day that offers reassurance in a very uncertain time. All children, including teens, benefit from routines that are predictable yet flexible enough to meet individual needs.
Structure the day. With the usual routines thrown off, establish new daily schedules. Break up schoolwork when possible. Older children and teens can help with schedules, but they should follow a general order, such as:
- wake-up routines, getting dressed, breakfast and some active play in the morning, followed by quiet play and snack to transition into schoolwork.
- lunch, chores, exercise, some online social time with friends, and then homework in the afternoon.
- family time & reading before bed.
A word about bedtimes
Children often have more trouble with bedtime during any stressful period. Try to keep normal nighttime routines such as Book, Brush, Bed for younger children. Put a family picture by their bed for “extra love” until morning. Bedtimes can shift some for older children and teens, but it is a good idea to keep it in a reasonable range so the sleep-wake cycle isn’t thrown off. Too little sleep makes it more challenging to learn and to deal with emotions. Remember to turn off cell phones and other mobile devices an hour before bedtime.
Source: Healthy children org (From the American Academy of Pediatrics)