Supporting Children and Teens During COVID-19
As a parent or teacher you likely want to shield your children from worry or heartache. Unfortunately, we can’t protect our kids from every fear or dangerous situation, but we can protect them from the pitfalls of avoiding emotional pain and grief.
Grief is the normal and natural emotional reaction to loss or change of any kind. That includes a loss of safety, or the fear of a loss of safety. COVID-19 is impacting all of our communities.
Health scares like COVID-19, make us realize how little control we have in our outward environments. But we can control how we talk and listen to our kids.
Suggestions for ways to support your children and teens who are worried about COVID-19
Children have different levels of maturity and awareness based on their ages and personalities. Meet the child where they are. Children are perceptive and adults’ behaviors have significant effect on children. If you’re afraid your kids will know it. Share your concerns being mindful of not overwhelming your child.
- Create an environment where children feel comfortable expressing their concerns and asking questions.
- If possible, speak the home language.
- Ask children what they have heard about infectious disease.
- Provide age appropriate, accurate information and clarify what is known, and what is unknown.
- Remind children that being homebound is temporary.
- Reassure children they will receive appropriate medical care if they become ill.
- Ensure your child’s medical team is involved to help monitor any pre-existing conditions.
- Don’t make promises that you cannot keep. Instead of saying “Everything’s going to be okay,” say, “We’ll do everything we can to be safe.”
How to keep things calm at home
Uncertainty and concern about catching an infectious disease, and protecting oneself and one’s family, can increase feelings of stress.
- Practice patience and tolerance, which can be difficult during this time and model healthy habits for the entire household.
- Maintain positive moods, focus on positive aspects of your life and things that you can control.
- Avoid increased use of alcohol or tobacco.
- Stay up-to-date about developments related to the infectious disease outbreak by using a reliable and accurate source of health-related information, such as Maine CDC.
- Create a daily routine (getting dressed, bedtime, meals, and school work).
- Build in regular breaks from school work, and if working from home.
- Maintain a healthy diet and good sleeping habits.
- Utilize available homeschool or distance learning opportunities that support the educational needs of children.
- Limit and closely monitor children’s use of media to reduce potential confusion, worry, and fear.
- Encourage children’s participation in household chores or projects to facilitate their sense of accomplishment.
- Seek social support from family members and/or friends and maintain social connections.
- Engage in relaxation techniques for stress reduction.
- Plan and engage in physical activity, get outside, play games, and other enjoyable activities.
- If you or a family member is feeling overwhelmed, seek support from your health care provider, religious leader, Maine 211 https://211maine.org/, Maine Crisis Line 1-888-568-1112.
Good basic hygiene and preventative measures:
- Avoid close contact with people who might be sick.
- Viruses spread mainly person-to-person through coughing or sneezing of infected people.
- Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue or sleeve when coughing or sneezing, and dispose of the tissue after use. If a tissue isn’t available, cough or sneeze into your elbow, not your hands.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth. Germs spread this way.
- Wash your hands regularly with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand-sanitizer.
- Wash your hands after coming home from public places, such as a school or playground.
- Clean frequently touched household surfaces with a disinfectant spray or wipes.
- If you get sick, stay home and limit contact with others to keep from infecting them.
The Grief Recovery Method: How to Talk to Your Kids About Coronavirus
Child Mind Institute: Talking to your Kids about the Coronavirus Crisis