Five Tips to Manage Stress in your Children during the Coronavirus Crisis
It is normal to feel stressed and anxious in reaction to an infectious disease outbreak like the Coronavirus (COVID-19). Emotions are heightened as cities and counties undergo lockdowns across the nation. Parents are encountering their first pandemic and quickly learning how to guide their children through this challenging time.
Steven A. Shapiro, DO, chair of Pediatrics at Abington – Jefferson Health, extends a helping hand to parents with these tips to guide school age children and adolescents through the stressful time known as COVID-19.
Tip 1: Communicate Openly
Do not be afraid to discuss COVID-19. It is important to note that age makes a difference in communication practices. Here are age appropriate tips to guiding the conversation:
Focus on safety. In this time of uncertainty, kids want to feel safe. It is important to emphasize the safety precautions you are taking as reassurance.
Tell the truth, but not everything. Give them the facts, but not all of them. Let them know how concerned you are as a parent.
Let them lead the conversation. Have an open discussion. Give them an opportunity to ask questions and share their own opinions. However, make sure you know where they are gathering their information from and recommend respected sources such as the CDC.
Tip 2: Anticipate Stress Responses
Stress responses vary in every child. Common responses to stress in school age children and adolescents are:
- Change in Sleeping Patterns (mainly in adolescents)
Be aware of stress responses in your children and take steps to address these signs.
Tip 3: Establish a Routine
School age children and adolescents are used to having a daily set schedule. This can include:
- Study Time
- Assignment Deadlines (for those who have online classes)
In this time of uncertainty, keeping a predictable routine/schedule can be helpful.
Tip 4: Limit Screen Time
Constant exposure to COVID-19 updates through media outlets, like TV and social media, can increase stress in school age children and adolescents. To counter continuous updates, limit time on devices throughout the day.
Instead, spend quality family time together playing games, creating arts and crafts masterpieces, cooking a new meal and more. There are plenty of fun indoor activities that do not involve devices.
Tip 5: Offer Your Support
Offer love and support to school age children and adolescents who may be stressed or anxious. Continue to be honest with them about their current situation. Invite your child to tell you anything they have heard about COVID-19 and how they feel. Remember that hugs speak louder than words.
Continue to teach your kids necessary precautions. Encourage them to wash their hands frequently throughout the day. It is still very important to practice social distancing and limit time with friends. Keep your kids informed in this new, stressful reality.