Ease Your Kids’ Stress Right Now: Tips From a 9-Year-Old

Katherine Cork's picture
By Katherine Cork on September 18, 2020

We’re all under stress right now. With everything that’s happening with jobs, schools, social events and all the other parts of life during the time of coronavirus, it’s easy to get overwhelmed.

Despite our own stress, let’s not forget how our kids are viewing the world.

Younger kids (even middle schoolers) often don’t have the life experience to know how to process the change they’re experiencing. Think about it: One day back in the spring, they left school, not knowing that they wouldn’t see their friends or their teachers again. They were stuck in their house, couldn’t go to birthday parties or the pool, couldn’t have play dates or see grandma and grandpa. They were thrust into online school that may or may not have gone smoothly.

When you were a child, would you have known how to handle all of that? Or would you have felt like you’d lost control of your life?

There are a number of things you can do to help your kids through this time, even if things aren’t the way they (or you!) want them to be. When asked about what parents can do for their kids right now, one 9-year-old offered these tips:

  • Tell them how to deal with anxiety, like taking time to breathe and talking to a parent about how they’re feeling
  • Explain what's happening in the world, but not in a scary way; for coronavirus, talk about how doctors are trying to help people
  • Make sure they’re exercising, because that makes everyone feel better
  • Plan some fun things to do so they don't have to think about stressful things all the time
  • Keep them in touch with friends and family
  • Snuggle a lot!

There is a lot to be taken from that list.

Kids don’t usually know how to identify things like disappointment or uncertainty; if your child is acting more angry than usual or more sad than usual, talk to them about the emotions they may not be able to recognize—but are likely feeling.

Also, talk to your kids about what they can control. No, they can’t do anything about coronavirus or the way school is now, but they can control a lot of things about themselves. They can control:

  • How kind they are to others
  • How helpful they are at home
  • How they spend their free time
  • How well they listen to their caregivers

They can also participate in prevention measures to keep themselves and their family safe, like wearing a mask and social distancing.

Remember that your kids are always looking to you to help them understand their world and know how to act in it. When all else fails, sometimes a hug and a short conversation that reassures them that everything will be okay is all they need to feel better.
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This article was reviewed by Robert L. Trestman, Ph.D., M.D., chair of Carilion Clinic Psychiatry and Behavioral Medicine and professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Medicine at Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine.

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