In a short period of time our world has rapidly changed as a result of COVID-19. It’s normal to feel worried, uncertain, and overwhelmed. It is important for us as parents to be our child’s sounding board, but do we know what that even looks like? Over the next few moments, I will answer some frequently asked questions from parents:
How do I talk to my child about COVID-19?
- Start with a conversation. Assure your child you are someone they can talk to about COVID-19.
- Find out what he/she understands.
- Show them you care about how they feel and understand by normalizing their feelings (e.g. “I can understand the reason you think that.” “I feel disappointed that we can’t see our family right now.” “I get that you are worried about COVID-19.”)
- Educate yourself to provide information and answers that are (1) the facts, (2) age-appropriate and (3) consistent.
- Be prepared to explain the coronavirus (The coronavirus is also known as COVID-19. The name “corona” means crown, and the 19 is from the year it was found in humans – 2019). The virus looks like a crown to scientist under a microscope. Hence, the name coronavirus. COVID-19 usually makes most people mildly sick, but the virus can make very small group of people really sick. This is the reason doctors, scientists, and other medical professionals are working very hard to find medicine to stop the virus from spreading.
- Be ready to explain associated terminology like “social distancing” or “shelter-in-place.”
- If you don’t know the answer be comfort about with saying, “I don’t know, but let’s learn together.” You can reach out to others for assistance or research the answer together.
- Reassure your child they are safe and that they have control over how they deal with COVID-19. Talk about things your family has done to increase safety in your home like disinfecting frequently used items, washing hand properly and frequently etc. Focus on the positives such as more family time, learning a new hobby, people helping one another more, etc.
- Be aware of your child excessively asking questions or asking the same question repeatedly. This may be a sign of anxiety. As parents we want to reassure our children during moments of distress. However, answering the same question over and over may increase, or maintain your child’s anxiety over time. If you feel your child is experiencing distress from the impact of COVID-19 seek mental health assistance.
How much media access about COVID-19 should my child have?
- Children are no different than adults, constant exposures to crisis information can become overwhelming and stressful.
- Checking the media once a day while you child is present may be enough. Be aware of your child’s temperament. Like an adult, every child responds differently. It is important to know how much information you child can receive without becoming distressed. In this case, it may be best to check the media away from you child.
- Be present should you decide to allow your child access to the media about COVID-19.
- Choose reliable media sources such as Center for Disease Control, CNN, or State/Local Health Departments.
Is structure important since we are quarantined?
Yes, structure and a daily routine are vital. Most children function better with clear expectation from structure and a set routine.
- Plan activities, meals, family time and a bedtime despite remaining in quarantine.
- Start doing fun things together that your family didn’t have time to enjoy before (e.g. family game night, baking, learning a new recipe, art projects etc.).
- Now more than ever manage your child’s screen time. Most children are required to participate in school virtually, along with completing assignments online daily. Although screen time has innately increased, still encourage and maintain social connections with family and friends, even if it’s done virtually.
Should I be concerned with changes in my child’s behaviors?
- When we experience negative emotions such as stress or anxiety, it frequently come out in our behaviors. Behaviors in children look differently depending on their temperament, age, level of distress, etc.
- Some common behaviors suggesting distress may be bad dreams, clinginess, isolation, easily angered, or overactivity.
- In some cases, children can regress back to behavior from younger years when anxious or distressed (e.g. bed wetting, daytime toileting accidents, sucking fingers etc.). Support your child through this distressing time by talking with them by using suggestion from the topic “How do I talk with my child about COVID-19), limit media access, and establish structure in the home. If your child’s behaviors worsen or persist after tying mention strategies, seek a mental health professional for help.
What can I do to help my child reduce the risk of becoming sick from COVID-19?
- Teach and remind your child to wash their hand with warm water and soap for 20 second. Use a simple video to teach proper handwashing. https://luma.one/handwashing/
- Also, teach and remind your child to avoid touching their face, eyes, nose, and mouth. Additionally, cover their cough/sneeze with their elbow or use a tissue and throw it away.
- Follow the recommendation from Center for Disease Control (CDC) to wear a cloth face covering in public settings (e.g. grocery stores, pharmacies). Teach and demonstrate the 6-feet social distancing guideline to children.
Why it is important to take care of myself while managing and supporting my children?
- Taking care of yourself is two-fold: (1) you help yourself be the best caregiver you can be to your children. (2) you are modeling for your children how to take care of themselves.
- Basic self-care include exercise regularly (e.g. walking [practice social distancing and wear face covering], YouTube exercise videos, live streaming workouts etc.), eat regularly while making healthy food choices, and get adequate rest.
- Stay connected to friends and supportive family members; maybe join a virtual group.