Reassuring Children During the COVID-19 Pandemic
Five tips to reestablish safety in a time of crisis.
Posted March 12, 2020 | Reviewed by Ekua Hagan
We are living through a unique time. The 24-hour news cycle speaks of little more than the COVID-19 pandemic. Schools are closing. Events are canceled. Celebrities are talking about contracting the virus. During this time, we are all feeling more anxious and maybe even scared.
Few are more impacted by rising concerns and panic than our children. They absorb all of our anxiety as well as the “community” anxiety. As their stress and anxiety rise, your children’s behavior may deteriorate. They may be more agitated, engage in tantrums, and struggle to manage anxiety or other emotions.
As a parent, you are in a unique position to reassure and support your children. How you respond to the current pandemic can help communicate reassurance and safety to your children. Humans are incredibly resilient. We will move through the crisis. It’s essential to be smart about your health and well being, pay attention to what is happening, and be as rationally positive as possible.
Here are five tips to help you reassure your children and create safety amid uncertainty:
- Speak about COVID-19 with your children. Information that is accurate and rooted in facts and science is an integral part of reassurance. Provide age-appropriate information. Younger children require less information with a sharper focus on reassurance. Older children will need more depth of knowledge. Teach all children what the new words they hear mean – things like quarantine, isolate, etc.
- Teach and practice appropriate health hygiene. Practice hand washing and cleaning that involves disinfection practices. Explain what “social distancing” means and why it is crucial. Discuss appropriate healthy lifestyle choices like sleep, nutrition, relaxation, etc. Explain that healthy lifestyle choices not only boost immune systems but also increase resiliency and coping strategies.
- No one is to blame. In a time of crisis, it is natural to look for someone to blame. With this medical emergency, assigning blame is inappropriate. Help your children understand why things like cancellations and closures are temporary and done to protect communities at large. Blame and anger, while a natural reaction, work against the establishment of safety and reassurance.
- Be flexible with household expectations. Part of communicating reassurance and safety to children is maintaining clear expectations and boundaries. With the current crisis, it is essential to keep those expectations but with an added layer of flexibility. Children may struggle with their emotional regulation as a normal part of dealing with increased stress and anxiety. It is important to understand the behavior they may exhibit within the context of that stress. Ask yourself what your child needs to feel safe and secure. Be flexible in your response to the behaviors, guiding children to more acceptable and appropriate ways to ask for help and support.
- Although lifestyles and routines will change, establish normalcy. Safety comes through predictability. During a crisis of this magnitude, establishing a routine is nearly impossible. It is possible, however, to make “different” the new “normal.” Teach flexibility. To the most significant degree possible, establish somewhat regular routines. Things like bedtime stories, a specific time for homework, meals, etc. – all of this can still occur during the crisis. Focus on reassurance and positive relationships with your children.
Children are looking to parents for reassurance and comfort. For additional tips for managing stress and anxiety, check out the following articles:
- When Anxiety Attacks, Learn to R.O.A.R.
- Generation Anxious
- Is Your Child Feeling Worried or Anxious?
- Dealing With Loss
For accurate information about COVID-19, visit the following sites: