Between school closings, heightened news coverage, and daily routine changes due to COVID-19, many children may be confused, worried, or even scared. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “Parents, family members, school staff, and other trusted adults can play an important role in helping children make sense of what they hear in a way that is honest, accurate, and minimizes anxiety or fear."
Everyone manages stress differently, including children and teens. Follow these tips from the CDC for coping with stress, which you can model and share with the children and teens in your life. Additionally, let them know it’s okay to feel upset, and help them manage stress by keeping up with regular routines as best as you can.
When talking with children about COVID-19, the CDC recommends avoiding language that blames others or leads to stigmas. Children pick up cues from the conversations you have with them and with others. Give them accurate and honest information that is appropriate for their age and developmental level.
Additionally, pay attention to what children see or hear, whether it’s online, on television, or on other media. Consider reducing the amount of screen time focused on COVID-19. Too much information on one topic can lead to anxiety. Also, talk to children about how some stories on COVID-19 on the internet and social media may be based on rumors and inaccurate information.
This is also a good time to teach and remind children to practice healthy habits, such as coughing or sneezing into a tissue or elbow and keeping their hands out of their mouth, nose, and eyes to help keep germs out. Help them thoroughly wash their hands for at least 20 seconds—about the time it takes to sing the “Happy Birthday" song twice. Older children can help adults at home to clean the things they touch the most, like desks, doorknobs, light switches, and remote controls.
The resources below can help explain both the disease itself and ways to cope with the stress it may cause for children and teens:
CDC: Coronavirus (COVID-19): Get the facts, including how to prepare your family, how to recognize COVID-19 symptoms, and resources for the community.
CDC: Talking with Children about Coronavirus: Guidance to help adults talk to kids about COVID-19 and suggestions for teaching kids how to avoid getting and spreading the virus.
CDC: Manage Anxiety and Stress: Tips for managing your own stress and helping others, including children, manage theirs.
Save the Children: Resources include guidance on how to help kids cope with extended school closures, advice for staying connected with grandparents, and family learning activities.
UNICEF: Coronavirus (COVID-19): Resources from the United Nations Children’s Fund, including handwashing tips, stories about how young people around the world are coping and staying positive, and more.
National Child Traumatic Stress Network: A parent and caregiver guide to helping families cope with COVID-19.
Child Mind Institute: Supporting Kids During the Coronavirus Crisis: Tips for nurturing and protecting children while at home from a national nonprofit group dedicated to children’s mental health.
To learn more about helping children cope, click here.
This article first appeared in the monthly Individual and Community Preparedness Newsletter. Subscribe here.