The recent COVID-19 pandemic has caused many disruptions in the lives of adults and children alike. For children, experiencing big changes, like school ending, cancelled extracurricular activities, and not being able to see their friends can cause feelings of confusion, frustration and fear. Here are some ideas and suggestions for how you, as a parent, can support your child (and yourself as their caregiver!) through this stressful time.
Take care of yourself
Children are naturally sensitive to the energy of the adults in their lives. If you are feeling stressed, they likely feel stressed too. Even if they’re too young to fully comprehend. As a parent, it becomes important in times like this that you prioritize your own self-care as much as you can, given the circumstances. Take active steps to be aware and responsive to your own needs during this time. Some suggestions on things you can do to manage your mental health during the current circumstances around coronavirus can be found here: Managing Coronavirus Anxiety.
- Be kind to yourself as a parent! Be reasonable with your expectations of your children, and also of yourself. It is impossible to be the “perfect” parent during this time at home.
Be truthful about what is happening
Don’t be afraid to talk about what is happening. Ask your children what they know about COVID-19 and ask if they have any questions. It is important to respond to their questions truthfully, to the best of your ability, in a developmentally appropriate way. There is power in knowing. Dismissing questions or trying to soothe them with a response like “it’s okay, you don’t need to worry,” can often grow anxiety and fear, causing children to worry more.
- There are some wonderful online resources that can help explain to children what coronavirus is and why we are all social-distancing or self-isolating in response! Take a look at Coronavirus: What Kids Can Do from KidsHealth.
- Help them recognize the things that are in their control. Actions such as washing their hands, coughing into their sleeves, and staying home from school and away from their friends are all powerful ways even kids can prevent the spread of the virus.
- Limit the amount of news and information about COVID-19 your child is taking in. Save adult conversations for after they’re in bed, and turn off the news – for yourself, as well as your child.
- Keep talking and checking in at regular intervals and provide them with important information as it becomes available to you.
Acknowledge their emotions
Most people feel scared, overwhelmed or nervous to some degree these days. Encourage your children to talk about their feelings and thoughts, and accept their feelings without minimizing, judging or dismissing.
- Acknowledge their losses as well. Children have lost their daily structure through school, their social connection to friends through school or playdates, and their extracurricular activities. These pieces are significant parts of a child’s world that are suddenly gone, and this can cause big feelings.
Be aware of how stress and anxiety may present in children
Some children may have a more difficult time expressing their emotions. Anxiety and fear often present as behaviours such as defiance, argumentativeness, temper tantrums. For caregivers, it is key to ask yourself what your child is trying to tell you they need through this type of behaviour. They may be needing comfort, connection, or more time with you. Look to meet that underlying need rather than reacting to the behaviour. Respond to them in a way that is calm, connected and consistent.
- In times like these, there’s never such a thing as spending too much time with your children. As their adult, ensure you are regularly providing them with calm, undistracted, focused time throughout the day. There is an amazing amount of activities circulating online about how to entertain children at home. Now is a great time to get creative with your children and find new activities to enjoy together! Build forts out of boxes and blankets, make arts/crafts, make recipes together – consciously choosing to see this time at home together as a gift can shift everyone’s state of mind.
Providing children with their regular, predictable routines as much as possible, helps give a sense of normalcy to their day, and will increase their feelings of safety and security. Ensure their days are structured with daily routines around sleep, eating, activities and exercise.
- A stressed brain is not a brain that is ripe for learning. Temper expectations of learning during stressful times, and offer more support than you might otherwise provide under other circumstances.
Help kids to stay connected
Like adults, socializing with the people important to them has a big impact on children’s mood and their ability to cope in stressful times.
- Use video chat apps such as Zoom, Facetime or Kids Messenger to help your children stay in touch with relatives and friends.
- Have your children send artwork to their grandparents or friends they are not able to see in person.
- Connect to your larger community through initiatives like art walks or helping neighbours in need through delivering groceries or shovelling walks.
Despite these suggestions, there might be times as a caregiver when extra support is needed. If that’s the case, the Rapid Access Counselling program through Catholic Family Service is still available through the online video conferencing platform Zoom. You can book an appointment here: booksinglesession.cfs-ab.org/
The self-help resources on this website are not intended to be a substitute for therapy or professional advice. The information is intended to give people the opportunity to explore topics of interest or that pertain to them or someone they know – in private and in their own time. While all attempts have been made to verify the information, we do not assume any responsibility for errors, omissions or contrary interpretation of the subject matter. If you need to talk to someone, call our Engagement Team at 403.233.2360 or send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.