This is one of the most unprecedented times in not only American history but world history as well. While it can be difficult for adults to cope with the unknown and constant change, it is just as difficult, if not more, for children to understand and cope. Today we are going to be going over how you can understand and help your child during this time of change and unknown. Let’s take a deeper look.
To start off, we need to understand that due to the changes going on, there are certain demographics of people who may be more susceptible than others. Older adults with chronic illnesses are at a higher risk of contracting COVID-19 which could give them uneasy feelings. Children and teens who have had their daily lives disrupted by school cancellations will also show signs of stress. Working adults in various essential job fields like healthcare workers, first responders, and other areas of business are probably not going to be themselves due to the high amount of stress they are facing every single day. Anyone who has had ongoing mental health issues may be feeling even more isolated than normal, causing extreme spikes of anxiety and depression. While we are going to be primarily focusing on children, many of these feelings can be valid to anyone. Wherever you fall on this spectrum, we want you to know that it is completely normal to be feeling this way during the pandemic that we’re facing. How you cope with these feelings is what will make the biggest difference.
According to the CDC, stress during any infectious disease outbreak can induce and include any of the following:
- Fear and worry about your own health/the health of your loved ones.
- Changes in sleeping or eating patterns.
- Difficulty sleeping or concentrating.
- Worsening of chronic health problems.
- Increased substance use (alcohol, tobacco, other drugs).
So how can you help your child?
Focus on Providing Education
One of the biggest issues that people are facing is the fear of the unknown and the uncertainty that has been circulating throughout the year. Instead of focusing on what you don’t know, focus on teaching your children information so that they, and you, can feel at ease by understanding some parts of it. While there are aspects that are completely out of our control and things we still do not understand, speak with your child about that too. The more you focus on providing factual information from credible sources, the more your child will understand. Depending on the age of your child, this can vary. For example, if you have a younger child, you may not need/want to explain that there are hundreds of people who have died, but rather explain that there is a bad sickness going around. Speak with them about how they need to wash their hands, wear a mask, and social distance. Providing them with tools and things that they can do, can ease some of the unknown fear they may be feeling.
Set A Routine
Children thrive on routine, and with their current schooling and after school activities no longer happening, this can cause them to misbehave and act out. You may also notice that they don’t seem like themselves. Typical school routines are set at a very young age, and a routine is somewhat of a comfort for children because they know what to expect. This is why it is important to set a routine for your children even when they are at home. Have them wake up at the same time that they usually would to go to school, have breakfast like normal, and then have them work on specific tasks. Even though most schools are now on summer break, try and treat this summer like any other one. If they usually helped with household chores or had a job, try and keep that same pattern. It’s going to be different but it gives them a sense of purpose and allows them to feel some control over their life.
Monkey see, monkey do! Your children model their behavior after you. No matter how much you don’t think they’re paying attention, they are. Make sure that you’re displaying the behavior that you would want your children to do. This can be difficult, especially if you’ve experienced job loss or any other type of turmoil due to the virus. But, when it comes to patterns of work and positivity, these are things that you can display to help make your child feel more comfortable. Children look to their parents and caregivers for a sense of protection, so if you’re consistently talking about how scared you are, they are going to pick up on that too. Model the behavior that you want your children to display.
Validate Their Feelings
This is a difficult time for all of us, including children. For many of them, they’ve probably missed out on some milestones like school graduations, events, and even birthdays. While we just discussed modeling good behavior, we also want to let you know that it is okay and that you should allow your children to talk about how they are feeling. Validate their feelings of fear, anxiety, and even depression. Talk with them and let them know that it is okay to feel these things. Emotional intelligence is extremely important for children to develop, and talking about emotions is one of the healthiest things that you can do.
Don’t Blame Others, Focus on Themselves
In stressful times we can often place blame on other people. Feelings of helplessness can cause these reactions and there may be an initial reaction to create a stigma. In cases of Covid-19, it’s important to not blame people and teach your children to not make comments about people who may be of Asian descent. The last thing you want your children to do is to teach your children patterns of behavior like this. When your children ask about the virus or anything going on, make sure to not reinforce negative stereotypes in your actions and conversations.
Once again, we understand that this time is one of the hardest times for everyone, children and adults alike. At New Transitions Counseling Center, we offer all types of therapy to help you and your children cope with this difficult time. From individual therapy, marriage counseling, cognitive behavioral therapy, and so much more, we are here for you. Schedule a consultation to speak with one of our therapists. We will be able to help point you in the right direction and find what is best for you or your children.