COVID and Children’s Mental Health

COVID has brought to our doorsteps much unexpected change, anxiety and stress. The current atmosphere is challenging for adults, but is also trying for children in different ways. Thinking about how to begin a conversation with a child about the current climate can be daunting. Know that there are strategies and resources available to help.

Prepare

The first and most necessary step before speaking to your child about COVID is to educate yourself. Seek out resources that focus on what can be done to manage today’s unique challenges. Once you have an understanding of how COVID is spread, and precautions that can be taken to keep your family safe, think about how you’re feeling. Getting in touch with your worries, concerns and anxiety will help you anticipate the way your children may be feeling. This will help you to be at your most calm when you decide to talk to your kids.

The Conversation

Once you have gathered your thoughts and feel ready, sit down with your child and start by asking them what they know or have heard about COVID already. By doing this, you’ll have an idea of where they are mentally and emotionally and can meet them where they are at. This allows you to share information, and help them navigate any misconceptions or inaccurate information they may have.

Limit Exposure

Children are very observant and perceptive. They are like sponges and absorb information from everywhere. They will be looking to you to make sense of the current climate and may need frequent reassurance. Try to keep life as “normal” as possible. Attempt to keep a schedule, limit exposure to the news and adult conversations ie. mortgage payments, bills, layoffs, as these additional worries can lead to an increase in both fear and anxiety.

Stay Active

With kids learning remotely, they may not have as much access to exercise as they would if they were able to go to school and participate in activities/recess. Physical activity and play are healthy ways for kids to relieve stress and anxiety, and is a vital part of childhood. A few health benefits of exercise are improvement in mood, reduction of sadness/anxiety and better sleep.

There are different ways to engage in exercise that you may not have thought of before. Try talking a walk or bike around your neighborhood or stream a live fitness class. Now is the time to get creative.

Hope for the Future

While COVID is a stressful time for both adults and children, not every child will experience COVID as traumatic. The best way to help kids through this challenging time is to keep things moving as smoothly as possible. Creating a schedule, frequent check-ins about their thoughts/feeling and exercise can make a big difference.

If additional help is needed look into local resources in your school district, faith services and other community resources for assistance or counseling. Know that help is out there and that you are not alone.

Resources

PBS Kids: How to talk to your kids about Coronavirus

Sesame Street: Health Emergencies

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