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How to help children cope with the pandemic

Many parents are juggling multiple roles: being a professional, parent, playmate, and teacher for your children. You may notice that your children may be experiencing fear and/or anxiety during the Coronavirus Shelter In Place. Children may develop fear of getting sick or someone in their family getting sick. Some kids will have anxiety on when it will end. Here are some tips to see if your kids are stressed, how to talk to them, and some strategies to support them through these changes:

How to identify young children who are stressed

  • Sleep disturbances, increase in nightmares, night terrors, fear of the dark

  • Regression in developmental task such as not wanting to sleep in their bed alone

  • Melt down over things that aren't usually an issue

  • Decrease in focus

  • Physical symptoms could include head aches or stomach aches

  • Not wanting to be alone

How to talk to your children about the stress due to the pandemic

  • Once the child has a pause after their reaction, start with helping the child label their feelings. It doesn't have to be complicated. You can ask them to choose from happy, sad, or mad.

  • Use a third person to help the child understand what is going with their emotions. For example, “I heard some other kids have been feeling scared, do you feel that way too?” This way the child will know they are not alone in how they are feeling

How to help relieve their anxieties and fears

  • Spend at least a few minutes often to check in with your child, Be fully present with them.

  • Be honest when expressing what is going on with the pandemic. This way you will build a strong trust with your child as they may hear a lot of information regarding what is going on.

  • Express to them that we are all learning and there are many things we do not know

  • Assure them that they are safe and the family will be together through this

  • Give them some leeway as they are learning how to cope with changes but that doesn't mean do not discipline them

  • If the child develops a fear of going outside, take baby steps in reintroducing outdoor activities. This could be going on a drive with the windows down. It could be scary to see everyone in masks when going outside. Another way to help the child is have them create their own mask, decorating it with their favorite things.

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