Helping Children Cope with COVID-19 Pandemic
As families continue to adapt to the changes in daily life as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, parents and other caregivers are faced with helping children adjust to new routines, keep up with schoolwork and overcome boredom. They also are faced with the challenge of helping kids cope with their fear and anxiety during this uncertain time.
Children look to adults for guidance and reassurance during periods of uncertainty and change. Dr. Marcy Baker, pediatric medical director for BayCare Medical Group, recommends that parents keep kids in the loop, but that they also keep it simple.
“Talking to children about their concerns in a calm way and providing the reassurance and support they need right now is the best way to help them feel cared for and safe,” said Dr. Baker. “But it’s important to remember that young children may not need to know every little thing. Unless they ask a specific question, it might be helpful to avoid volunteering details that could add to their worries.”
Child Life Specialists Danielle Palomo and Margaret Armstrong, who provide developmental and emotional support to pediatric patients at BayCare’s St. Joseph’s Hospital-South, recommend the following for helping children cope with COVID-19 anxiety and fear.
- Consider the child’s developmental age.
- Remain calm, open and honest.
- Answer questions and clear up misconceptions if possible.
- Talk about feelings and validate them.
- Use the terms COVID-19 or Coronavirus. Explain that this is one virus with two names and that it is different from the flu or a regular cold.
Limit media influence
- Prolonged exposure to news reports and online stories can create additional stress and fear.
- Try to avoid watching or listening to things that may be upsetting to your child.
Understand behavior changes are coping mechanisms
- Children sometimes act out when their daily routines are disrupted. Try to understand that this is just as stressful for them as it is for you.
- It is also normal for some children to continue to play and act as if nothing is happening. Play is a very natural way for children to manage stress.
- Playing outside and physical activity help children to release energy and provides opportunities for coping.
Discuss ways to stay healthy
- Be sure everyone in household is washing their hands regularly.
- Stay home and limit contact with outside family and friends.
- Most children thrive with having a set routine. Creating a new daily routine, as much as possible, can provide predictability. Having a consistent dinner and bedtime can help physical and mental
- health. However, don’t stress if/when something interrupts your new family routine.
Try out these fun activities to keep kids entertained
- Have a family game night.
- Do an arts and crafts project.
- Go on a scavenger hunt around the house.
- Have kids help with cooking or baking.
- Reach out to family or friends through video apps.
- Write letters or send photos to family or friends through the mail.
- Create a family gratitude list and add to it daily.