After an emergency, children may feel upset or anxious no matter their age. Some children may not show obvious signs of difficulty until later while some may have strong reactions immediately. A child’s reaction will depend on their previous experiences, how they typically deal with stressors, and their age.
Typically, children react based on how the adults around them are reacting. If parents and other caregivers are calm and confident, they are more reassuring to their children. Start by setting a good example and taking care of yourself and your own physical and mental health needs. By doing so you’ll be better prepared to care for your loved ones and make informed decisions. Because people can become more distressed and anxious by seeing repeated images and news on the media, try to limit the exposure they receive to the news coverage.
The COVID-19, or coronavirus, pandemic has greatly disrupted the daily lives of children worldwide. Separation from school, friends, or family members while practicing social distancing is incredibly stressful for children. Take the time to talk to your children about what is happening in a calm, age-appropriate way that they will easily understand. It’s important for you to assure children that you are there to help keep them safe. Encourage them to ask questions at any time or talk openly about their concerns or fears.
Children have wild imaginations, so try to provide just enough information to them to keep them informed, but not enough to cause them to create catastrophic stories in their minds. Consider that information your child absolutely needs to know, such as why there is no school or why the family is taking extra precautions regarding social distancing and cleaning protocols. Utilize credible sources such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or the World Health Organization’s myth busters page.
If your children are home, try to keep a consistent routine. Children (and most adults) dislike uncertainty. Having a routine creates a helpful predictability for children and should include structured mealtimes, physical activity, and bedtimes. Don’t guilt yourself if you’re not able to create a color-coded schedule or home-schooling plan. Do the best you can and try to maintain as much consistency as possible.
Be cognizant of your children expressing their concerns or anxieties through repeated questioning. This behavior is also known as reassurance seeking. If your child repeatedly asks the same or similar questions and continues to show signs of stress, it may be helpful to seek support from a mental health professional. There are many strategies during this time that can help children manage their stress and anxiety. You can also set a good example by managing your own stress. Eat healthily, get daily exercise, and try to get enough sleep during this time.
During this unprecedented time, our practice is utilizing teleconferencing. Teleconferencing has made it possible to see a mental health professional from a distance.
With recent requirements for social distancing, many therapists and clients have had to either pause their work or make other arrangements, including meeting by video conference.
Please visit this link to learn more about teleconference therapy sessions.