Fear and anxiety from all the COVID-19 news can be overwhelming for both adults and children. Kids often react to what they see from the adults around them, so when parents and caregivers deal with the pandemic calmly and confidently, they can provide the best support for their children. When you are prepared, rested and relaxed, you can respond better to stressful situations and make decisions in the best interest of your family and loved ones.
Here are some tips from the Child Mind Institute to help calm fears, manage stress and keep the peace:
- Keep routines in place. Setting and sticking to a regular schedule is key, even when you're home all day. Structured days with regular mealtimes and bedtimes are an essential part of keeping kids happy and healthy. Consistency and structure are calming during times of stress.
- Be creative about new, fun things to do. Incorporate new activities into your routine, like doing a puzzle or having family game time in the evening. Build in activities that help everyone get some exercise, such as taking a daily family walk or bike ride.
- Manage your own anxiety. It's completely understandable to be anxious right now, but how you manage that anxiety has a big impact on your kids. Keeping your worries in check will help your whole family navigate this uncertain situation as calmly as possible. When you catch yourself feeling anxious, try to avoid talking about your concerns within earshot of your children. If you're feeling overwhelmed, step away and take a break.
- Limit consumption of news. Staying informed is important, but it's a good idea to limit the amount of news and social media that has the potential to feed your anxiety - and your kids'. Turn off the TV and mute or unfollow those who are prone to sharing panic-inducing posts.
- Stay in touch virtually. Keep your support network strong, even when you're only able to call or text friends and family. Socializing plays an important role in regulating your mood and helping you stay grounded. And the same is true for your children. Communication can help kids feel less alone and mitigate some of the stress that comes from being away from friends and family.
- Make plans. In the face of events that are scary and largely out of our control, it's important to be proactive about what you can control. Making plans helps you visualize the near future. Make lists that kids can add to, or even better, assign kids tasks that will help them feel that they are a part of the plan and making a valuable contribution to the family.
- Keep it positive. Though adults are feeling apprehensive, to most children the words "school's closed" are cause for celebration. Parents should validate that feeling of excitement and use it as a springboard to help kids stay calm and happy. Let kids know that you're glad they're excited, but make sure they understand that though it may feel like vacations they've had in the past, things will be different this time.
- Keep kids in the loop - but keep it simple. Talking to children in a clear, reasonable way about what's going on is the best way to help them understand. But remember kids don't need to know every little thing. Unless kids ask specifically, there's no reason to volunteer information that might worry them. Older kids can handle - and expect - more detail, but you should still be thoughtful about what kinds of information you share with them.
- Check in with little kids. Young children may be oblivious to the facts of the situation, but they may still feel unsettled by the changes in routine, or pick up on the fact that people around them are worried and upset. Check in with younger children periodically and give them the chance to process any worries they may be having. Make sure to respond to any outbursts in a calm, consistent, comforting way.
- Sometimes the path of least resistance is the right path. Remember to be reasonable and kind to yourself. We all want to be our best parenting selves as much as we can, but sometimes that best self is the one that allows your child a little leeway while schools are cancelled or online. Give yourself license to relax the boundaries a bit. Say "go for it" when your kid asks for more time on the iPad or allow TV or screens on the weeknights. We can re-institute boundaries once more when life returns to normal.
- Accept and ask for help. If you have a partner at home, agree to trade off when it comes to child care, especially if one or both of you are working from home and have younger children. That way everyone gets a break and some breathing room. Everyone who can pitch in should. Give kids age-appropriate jobs. For example, teens might be able to help mind younger siblings when both parents have to work. Most children can set the table, help keep common areas clean, do dishes or take out the trash. Even toddlers can learn to pick up their own toys. Working as a team will help your whole family stay busy and make sure no one person - especially mom - is overwhelmed.
You can also download our Weld County Kids COVID-19 Care Kit(PDF, 375KB), featuring four pages of coloring and fun activities your children can do that also support their mental and emotional health.
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