Editor’s note: This article was published on May 1, 2020. COVID-19 information and recommendations are subject to change. For the most up-to-date information, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website or view our most recent COVID-19 blog posts.
Anxiety about the novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) is not limited to adults. Young children to teens may be feeling stress and have worries. These may be overwhelming feelings for your children and they may not always know how to communicate what is wrong.
Watch for behavior changes
Not all children and teens respond to stress in the same way. Some common changes to watch for can include:
- Excessive crying or irritation in younger children.
- Showing regressive behaviors, like bed wetting or thumb sucking.
- Excessive worry or sadness.
- Avoidance of activities they enjoyed in the past.
- Unhealthy changes in eating or sleeping habits.
- Irritability and “acting out” behaviors in teens.
- Difficulty with attention and concentration.
- Unexplained headaches or body pain.
- Withdrawing to spend more time alone.
Help your child deal with stress
While it may seem counterintuitive, you should help your child feel more informed. Your children may know more about COVID-19 than you realize. They see and hear what’s on the news, social media and what your family talks about. Your goal when doing this is to use age appropriate, factual information to clear any misconceptions from what they hear from friends or on the news.
“Unexpected stress is worse than anticipated stress because it decreases a child’s ability to cope,” said Heidi Giese, Child Life & Expressive Therapies manager at Marshfield Children’s Hospital.
You may have to remind yourself that something that you view as insignificant can create stress for kids. Let your kids know that you understand they’re stressed and don’t dismiss their feelings as inappropriate.
Be a good role model
Families are adapting to a new normal. Your routine of work, school and social gatherings have completely changed. Your children are looking to you for how to react. You can model healthy behaviors for your children by setting a new routine and create a schedule for learning activities, your work time and take breaks. Make sure your family is eating, exercising and sleeping regularly. These efforts help your child stay occupied, feel safe and reassure children that they are okay and this is temporary.
Make a plan for your day that includes activities for play or fun time with the family and on their own, as appropriate. These activities help your child express their feelings through creativity and play.
“Try to give children choices to empower them throughout the day,” Giese said. “It will make them feel more confident and in control of something.”
Giese recommends the following resources to give you and your children tools to cope:
- Coping Calendar
- COVID Time Capsule
- How to Help Children Develop Emotional Resilience during Coronavirus
For more information to help you navigate during COVID-19, visit our Shine365 COVID Hub.