April 6, 2020
Webinar: Parenting Tips for Helping Children Cope During COVID-19 Pandemic
Written by Rachel Eddins
We are all adapting to the changes in our daily lives because of this virus. Most parents are working from home adjusting to video or telephone conferences. Children are home all day adjusting to online learning and younger children are no longer in daycare/preschool. They don’t understand why they can’t play with their friends or play on the slide at the playground. They might start acting out trying to get your attention. I’m calling this our “new abnormal.”
I recently interviewed Shannon Guinther, a play therapist here at Eddins Counseling Group, on parenting tips to help children cope during the pandemic. Watch the video below and read the transcript under it.
How do I talk to my kids about coronavirus & what’s going on in the world?
First of all, know that parents all over the world are asking the same questions. You are not alone in this. You probably want to know what to share, how much to say, how to say it and ways to navigate COVID-19 when so much is uncertain. Make children feel safe. Offer comfort and honesty. There are 2 stressors: COVID-19 itself and the anxiety about COVID-19. Children of all ages pick up on the anxiety surrounding our current situation and a major change in lifestyle.
- Your words and tone are important. Stay calm.
- Put your own fears aside while talking to children.
- Reassure children that this is temporary and you are there for them if they want to talk or just need a hug.
- Keep it simple, fact-based, and age-appropriate.
- Find out what your child already knows.
For older children, you might ask about what they’ve heard about the virus. Older kids are probably already going online to find information. Make sure their information is accurate. Find out where they are getting it. You can always go to the CDC website with your child and find out the most accurate, up to date details.
For younger children, just follow their lead. If they don’t ask questions, that’s ok. You don’t have to bring it up and explain it if they aren’t ready to hear it. If they do ask questions answer them honestly but don’t go into too much detail. Answer only what they ask. Too much information can create more anxiety.
What can I do to lessen/decrease the stress level and anxiety at home?
Let kids know what to expect. The rough part here is we don’t know exactly what to expect in the weeks and months ahead. But we do know some things. We know, for instance, we’re going to be seeing a lot less of the people in our lives in person, but you can FaceTime or Skype with friends and family. We know that we’re going to have to find creative ways to pass the time at home.
- Making a schedule and sticking to a routine is key. It’s not always going to be easy, but consistency gives your child a sense of security.
- Wake them up at the same time on weekdays.
- Everyone should get dressed for the day.
- Making a calendar with pictures can work well for younger children.
- A written schedule for older children helps them organize how to get their online schoolwork done.
- You know your child better than anyone. You will know what method works best for them.
Give your child specific things they can do to feel in control. Teach kids that getting lots of sleep and washing their hands well and often can help them stay strong and well. Explain that regular hand washing also helps stop viruses from spreading to others. Model the correct way to wash your hands!
Let your kids know it’s normal to feel stressed out sometimes. Everyone does! But stressful times pass and life will get back to normal.
What do my kids need most from me right now?
Your love, empathy, attention, understanding, and knowing that you are their “safe place”. They need this now more than ever. Being at home together day after day can get monotonous and it’s normal to get on each other’s nerves. But this can actually be a good opportunity to have some fun with your kids! We’re not as hurried and harried as we were before.
- Make time to turn off the news, forget about your phone for a while and focus your attention on your children and reconnect with them.
- Play board games, charades, cards, have dance parties, do art projects w whatever you have around the house, make up your own games!
- Don’t forget to take care of yourself. Parents are impacted the most. We are trying to keep up with a lot of moving parts (work, online school, providing for your family, cooking, cleaning, and worrying about the virus and how it could affect your friends and loved ones…).
- It’s not selfish to practice self-care! It’s necessary!
- You can have “freak out moments.” I usually have mine in the bathroom so the kids don’t see!
- Take breaks, go for walks outside, sit in your back yard with your favorite beverage and look at the trees and sky for a while, do some yoga or meditation (there are apps for this)!
- Don’t forget to take deep calming breaths.
- If you have a significant other, you can do a parenting hand-off if you’re hitting your limit!
- Turn off the news if you feel like you are experiencing information overload!
- IF YOU DON’T TAKE CARE OF YOUR OWN NEEDS, YOU WON’T BE ABLE TO BE THERE FOR YOUR CHILDREN.
During this chaotic time, you are the rock for your children. You have your own feelings about this major disruption in our lives, so if you aren’t the “perfect parent” (which doesn’t exist!), give yourself a break! Be kind to yourself if you feel overwhelmed. Allow yourself to be imperfect, move through difficult feelings when you have them and get back on the horse! Helping our children make it through life and all of the unknown challenges out there is what we do every day! We are parents, we are strong, we are all navigating this together! We can do this!
At Eddins Counseling Group, in Houston, TX we have several experienced child therapists and parent educators that can help you and your family cope with the stress of the COVID-19 pandemic. Reach out for a consultation today. Give us a call at 832-559-2622 or book an appointment online.