When faced with the anxiety of COVID-19, children and teens will look to their parents and other adults around them for ways to react to the crisis. How prepared are you to offer reassurance and support?
Hope and Help Southcoast spoke with Child & Family Services mobile crisis intervention program manager Matthew Boyd via email to learn more about ways parents can best help their children during the pandemic.
Boyd believes parents and caregivers should talk openly about COVID-19 with their kids.
As a parent, you might be tempted to shield your child from the uncertainty of and unknowns about the virus, but by talking about it, Boyd says, you can increase your child’s awareness of the virus and reinforce the safe practices he or she needs to follow, like washing your hands frequently, wearing a mask, and social distancing.
Those practical conversations about the virus also help form a safe foundation for more complex discussions about the emotional impacts your child may be feeling.
“This can also be a good segue for parents/caregivers to talk about their children's feelings,” Boyd said. “Are they feeling afraid, alone, or isolated?”
Boyd recommends parents set time aside to spend with their children as much as possible. Some of the activities that can help reassure your child include playing board games, getting outside for a walk or fun activity, having meals together, watching a show together, or doing arts and crafts.
“The more time that children are engaged in meaningful activities the less time they will have to isolate, feel alone, or have unlimited time on social media/news/television,” he said.
Keeping yourself educated about the virus is important too, but do your best to stick to the facts. Boyd recommends limiting your exposure to social media and news media in favor of official websites like The Department of Public Health and Centers for Disease Control.
For more information, visit Child & Family Services.
If you need help:
24/7 Crisis/ Behavioral Health Line:
Child & Family Services
(508) 996- 3154
Here are 10 common changes to stress in children to keep an eye out for:
Excessive crying or irritation in younger children
Returning to behaviors they have outgrown. For example, toileting accidents or bed wetting
Excessive worry or sadness
Unhealthy eating or sleeping habits
Irritability and “acting out” behaviors in teens
Poor school performance or avoiding school
Difficulty with attention and concentration
Avoidance of activities enjoyed in the past
Unexplained headaches or body pain
Use of alcohol, tobacco, or other drugs
Source: Child & Family Services.