Remember the Children
The unabated spread of Coronavirus (COVID-19) is causing uncertainty, stress, and anxiety for adults. We can only imagine how troubling this is for children. Depending on media exposure and age, it may very well be that children know more about what is going on than their parents do.
And even if they are unaware, children may be absorbing the tension from adults around them. While children, in general, are experiencing a heightened level of worry, those who are usually more anxious might be obsessing about the constant hand washing or that they will become infected.
It is for these reasons that parents need to do whatever they can to mitigate the anxiety their children are feeling. Here are some suggestions from the experts:
1. Debunk the Myths
- Both parents and online school psychologists need to let children know that they shouldn’t believe everything their friends say nor what was seen on the internet is correct.
- Give children perspective as to the actual risk. Contrary to what they have been told or might imagine, not everyone who gets the virus dies.
- Those children who have experienced severe illness or loss are especially vulnerable in the current situation to experiencing extreme reactions, and thus may require additional support.
2. Developmentally Appropriate Fact Sharing
- Stay away from holding adult-level conversations about Coronavirus anxiety when children are around. Resist the temptation to share “news” until it has been properly filtered.
- When children ask you questions, be sure to provide short answers that are developmentally appropriate. Instead of sharing some of the graphic details, it is sufficient to tell the child that Coronavirus is a new type of flu, so we need to wash our hands more often, and sneeze or cough into our elbows.
- Keep reminding children that doctors and scientists around the world are working to help stop the virus. Knowing that smart people are doing something will provide a sense of security for children and help them to be more resilient.
3. Reassurance Through Empowerment
- Continuously reassure children that they have the power to protect themselves by maintaining proper hygiene through hand-washing and coughing etiquette
- Sharing with children that they are helping to keep others safe by maintaining proper hygiene can help transform their anxiety into an admirable action.
- To the degree possible, include your children in family discussions about what activities to plan during this extended “vacation” or what treats they might enjoy.
4. Validation and Compassion
- Even if the child’s concern seems to be exaggerated, don’t dismiss it, but rather listen compassionately. Find out where they received their information. And validate their fears. Let them know that the unknown can be scary.
- If you find that they are harboring misconceptions, gently correct them. And be sure to encourage them to ask more questions whenever they want.
- Understand that, in times of uncertainty, structure is critical. Do whatever you can to maintain the routine. Maintaining a routine is key to protecting both physical and mental health.
5. The Importance of Modeling Positive Behavior
- Perhaps the most important gift that you can give your children is to model good coping skills. Modeling good coping skills, more than anything else, will give your children the sense that they are safe.
- Kids are bound to make mistakes. When they inadvertently forget to sneeze into their elbow or wash their hands, don’t reprimand them, but instead gently encourage them to do so the next time. Frightening children with consequences is bound to be counterproductive.
- Irrespective of the calming words that you may use, if there is fear or tension in your voice, the child’s anxiety will increase. Ground yourself before you speak.
The Children are in Your Hands
Above all else, remember that you have an awesome responsibility to the children in your life, whether you are a parent or an online school psychologist. You need to be supportive and validate the children’s feelings, as well as instill confidence in them that they can handle some anxiety, which is inevitable.
And while you are helping the child to accept being anxious, it is crucial to avoid encouraging coping strategies that are unhealthy or excessively avoiding the anxious feelings. If the child is becoming overly preoccupied or anxious, it may be time to seek out further assistance from an online school psychologist.
Help your Students Cope with the Crisis
The response to the COVID-19 virus is unprecedented. Because of our unique role in children’s K-12 education, we feel a responsibility to do what we can to assist schools, therapists, and students with this transition to online learning and seclusion. To ensure that our students remain engaged and supported regarding Coronavirus anxiety and related matters, our therapists are providing complimentary “Support Sessions” to the country’s youth. We are also assisting schools by training therapists for remote therapy. Click here to learn more.