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How to support your child during COVID-19

Last Modified: 7/25/2020

child stressors

Life during the pandemic has been difficult for everyone. COVID-19 has changed so much of our daily lives it can be hard, especially for children, to adjust to such extreme change. We asked Jalyssa Kessler, BA, CCLS, CPST, certified child life specialist, Parkview Health, to share some common scenarios children may encounter along with creative coping strategies parents can utilize to help their little ones navigate these stressful situations.

Common stressors for children

A huge stressor for children is the feeling that they have no control. Reassuring your child that you, doctors, nurses and other adults are doing what they can to help protect everyone can be comforting. It may also be helpful to teach them that they can do their part to keep themselves as well as others healthy and safe by wearing a mask. Now, we know getting kids over the age of two to wear a mask can be challenging but try having them practice wearing their mask for short increments of time each day. Then, slowly increase the duration as you move forward. Remind your child that they only need to wear it when in public, not at home playing or spending time with family.

Addressing their fears

It’s important to address any fears your child expresses. Speaking simply and honestly will help reassure them. Talk to them with facts, don’t lie to them. Kids hear the same news reports you do, and it can be frightening to them. Remember, while many adults find the unknown unsettling, kids are even more worried. Remind them that, besides wearing a mask, they will need to wash their hands regularly. Keep in mind that not all children will express their fears in a clear way. You may have to recognize their feelings and guide them through the discussion to get them talking.

Staying connected

For children, not seeing and talking to their friends can make this time even more difficult. Video chatting has become an extremely popular way to maintain social connections. Encourage video chats with friends and loved ones. Supervised video chatting is recommended for little ones, so you know who they are talking to. It’s also a good idea to make sure your child’s friend’s parents are also okay with the video chatting before doing so.

Maintaining a routine

Keeping and maintaining routines children have been used to is crucial during this difficult and challenging time. When everything seems out of whack to a child, maintaining normalcy in their daily routines can be incredibly beneficial. Maintaining routines creates a sense of order to the day and offers reassurance in these uncertain times. If you don’t have a normal structure or routine for the day, now is a great time to start one. Having wake-up and bedtime routines is a great start. Then doing the same activities each day will give your child something to look forward to each day. Daily activities could be reading before bed, family dinners at the dinner table, a family game, a family walk, playing outdoors, riding bikes and more.

Reinforcing positive behavior

Keep in mind, no matter how much you try to make this easier on your child, younger children especially may not verbally tell us their feelings, but instead communicate them emotionally and physically. You can help your child express their emotions and feelings by doing the following:

  • Redirect bad behavior
  • Talk to them one-on-one or as a family
  • Dedicate some time each day for creative play
  • Reinforce good behaviors
  • Use timeouts to educate when they’ve acted in a way they weren’t supposed to
  • Set aside 10-20 minutes each day to let your child choose an activity to do one-on-one with you or as a family. This will give them a sense of control and make them feel special.

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