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: schools opening, then quickly closing again; not knowing when they'll see their friends or whether it's safe to; birthday parties and play dates and visits with grandparents postponed once again; and so many other changes and unpredictable disruptions.
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
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.
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.