Mental Health Resources For Parents: Supporting Your Child During Uncertain Times
Social-Emotional Support: Helping Children Cope With Changes Resulting from COVID-19:
Per the National Association of School Psychologists (NASP), teaching children positive preventative measures, talking with them about their fears, and giving them a sense of control over their risk of infection can help reduce anxiety. The following tips can help you in supporting your child during this unprecedented time:
Stay Calm, Listen, and Offer Reassurance
- Be A Role Model: Children react to and follow your reactions. They learn from your example.
- Be Aware of How You Talk About COVID-19: Your discussion about COVID-19 can increase or decrease your child's fear. If true, remind your child that your family is healthy and you are going to do everything within your power to keep loved ones safe and well. Listen carefully or have them draw or write out their thoughts and feelings and respond with truth and reassurance.
- Explain Social Distancing: Children probably don't fully understand why parents/guardians aren't allowing them or limiting time for them to be with friends. Tell your child that your family is following guidelines from the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), which includes social distancing. Social distancing means staying away from others until the risk of contracting COVID-19 is under control. Explain that we do not know how long it will take to reduce the number of infections, but we must do our part and follow the guidelines of health experts.
- Demonstrate Deep Breathing: Deep breathing is a valuable tool for calming the nervous system. Do breathing exercises with your child.
- Focus on the Positive: Celebrate having more time to spend as a family. Make it as fun as possible. Do family projects, organize belongings, create masterpieces. Sing, laugh, and go outside to connect with nature and get exercise. Allow older children to connect with friends virtually.
- Establish and Maintain a Daily Routine: Keeping a regular schedule provides a sense of control, predictability, calm, and well-being. It also helps children and other family members respect others' need for quiet or uninterrupted time and when they can connect with friends virtually.
- Identify Projects That Might Help Others: This could include: writing letters to the neighbors or others who might be stuck at home alone or to healthcare workers; sending positive messages over social media; or reading a favorite children's book on a social media platform for younger children to hear.
- Offer Lots of Love and Affection
Monitor Television Viewing and Social Media
- Parents/guardians should monitor television, internet, and social media viewing - both for themselves and their children. Watching continual updates on COVID-19 may increase fear and anxiety. Developmentally inappropriate information, or information designed for adults can also cause anxiety or confusion, particularly in young children.
- Dispel rumor and inaccurate information. Explain to your child that many stories about COVID-19 on the internet may include rumors and inaccurate information. Older children, in particular, may be accessing a great deal of information online and from friends that contain inaccuracies. Talk to your child about factual disease information.
- Provide alternatives. Engage your child in games or other exciting activities instead.
Take Time To Talk
- Let your children's questions guide you. Answer their questions truthfully, but don't offer unnecessary details or facts. Don't avoid giving them the information that experts indicate as crucial to your child's well-being. Often, children and youth do not talk about their concerns because they are confused or don't want to worry about loved ones. Younger children absorb scary information in waves. They ask questions, listen, play, and then repeat the cycle. Children always feel empowered if they can control some aspects of their life. A sense of control reduces fear.
Be Honest And Accurate
- Correct misinformation. Children often imagine situations worse than reality; therefore, offering developmentally appropriate facts can reduce fears.
- Explain simple safety steps. Tell your child this disease spreads between people who are in close contact with one another, when an infected person coughs or sneezes, or when one touches infected objects or surfaces.
- Stay up-to-date on the facts. The CDC updates information about COVID-19 regularly.
Keep Explanations Age-Appropriate
For all children, encourage them to verbalize their thoughts and feelings and be a good listener!
- Early elementary school children - Provide brief, simple information that balances COVID-19 facts with appropriate reassurances that adults are there to help keep them healthy and to take care of them if they do get sick. Give simple examples of the steps people make every day to stop germs and stay healthy such as washing hands. Use language such as "adults are working hard to keep you safe."
- Upper elementary and early middle school children - This age group often is more vocal in asking questions about whether they are safe and what will happen if COVID-19 spreads in their area. They may need assistance separating reality from rumor and fantasy. Discuss the efforts national, state, and community leaders are doing to prevent germs from spreading.
- Upper middle-high school students - Issues can be discussed in more depth. Refer them to appropriate sources of COVID-19facts. Provide honest, accurate, and factual information about the current status of COvID-19. Engage them in decision making about family plans, scheduling, and helping with chores at home.