Opinion: How to talk to your kids about coronavirus
It can be confusing to determine how much (or how little) to share with your kiddos during times of uncertainty. As a parent, we want to provide support and reduce anxiety. However, with fast-paced global challenges, such as COVID-19, this can be incredibly difficult.
Eagle Valley Behavioral Health, an outreach of Vail Health, has identified some strategies specific to children that can be useful during this period.
Limit children’s exposure to media
It is always important to monitor what a child is viewing through media channels. However, during times of global distress, this becomes increasingly important. Media is often overwhelming for adults; however, children may lack the cognitive understanding to fully comprehend the content of the news, leading to increased anxiety, “what-if” thinking, panic and agitation.
Provide an open space
Often parents feel that they must have all the answers when talking with their children. However, it is most important to provide an open and trusting space to talk.
Perhaps beginning a conversation with, “You may have heard some things about an illness that is going around, coronavirus. What type of things have you heard?” Having regular, open conversations about feelings, fears and thoughts is linked with psychological wellness in children. Remember, it is OK to not have all the answers. It is also never too early to begin these conversations.
Maintain a schedule
Closures, isolation and quarantine may impact your family’s daily routine. However, it is useful to attempt to maintain normal routines and schedules, even if this means doing so within your home. Utilize technology to encourage peer interactions and social support (for adults and children). Creating a sense of routine and structure can increase a child’s sense of internal control and comfort.
Understand typical responses
We need to remember that with the level of stress and uncertainty, the majority of people (children or adults) will have some level of a stress response. In young children, this can include nightmares, regression of previously mastered skills (bedwetting and accidents), increased separation anxiety, increased acting out (behaviors and tantrums) or physical symptoms (bellyaches and headaches).
Older children may demonstrate increased moodiness, sleep difficulties, anxiety about missing social support, fear of social rejection or social withdrawal.
It is important for parents and caregivers to reassure children and loved ones that we have plans to manage the current situation and keep them safe.
Dr. Casey Wolfington is a licensed psychologist and the community behavioral health director with Eagle Valley Behavioral Health. She has been providing services in the Eagle County community for more than 12 years.
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