We are currently experiencing uncertain and unprecedented times; the outbreak of coronavirus (COVID-19) has triggered much stress, fear, and anxiety around the world. It is overwhelming for many and can cause a range of strong emotions for both parents and children.
The reality is that we are in the middle of a worldwide pandemic, with our schools, businesses, and even countries shutting down. We do not know the full extent to which our lives will be impacted or how things will be in a week or month from now. As a result, there may be a tendency to catastrophise and for our emotions and thoughts to spiral into overwhelming dread and panic.
Our children are also experiencing a sense of uncertainty and fear – schools are closed, they can’t visit their friends, have play dates, or go out like they used to – and they do not necessarily understand why. They are often very much aware of some of what is going on, but do not always understand fully, and can feel the worry and tension experienced by their parents and other adults.
Children do not always have the language or cognitive ability yet to talk about their fears and worries. As such, you may notice behavioural changes in your children over the next few weeks. It may manifest as anxiety, worry, anger, tantrums, or even sadness. Keep in mind that this is your child’s reaction to the current situation.
How do we help our children through this time?
Our children need to feel comforted and loved. They need to know that their anxieties or fears are warranted and understandable, but at the same time we need to reassure each other and our children that everything will be okay
. Talk to your children in an age appropriate way, explaining the virus to them and its implications. Validate their anxieties and respond to their concerns without dismissing them. Try to give them factual information rather than information that has an emotionally loaded message. Take into consideration their age and potential level of understanding – they need to be educated but not frightened.
There are things you can do even in the face of this unique crisis to manage those fears and anxieties.
Stick to a routine or schedule. Sticking to a daily routine helps you maintain a daily gives purpose and structure in these uncertain times.
Incorporate a multitude of activities into your day - whether it be cooking/baking, doing puzzles, arts and crafts activities. Keep your household stimulated and active. Most importantly, ensure your children feel safe and secure within their home.
Practice and emphasise good hygiene such as washing hands and sanitising.
Use this time to bond with your children. Focus on spending time together as a family and on building positive connections that will support all of you through this time. The happy memories made now will last a lifetime.
At the end of the day, your child’s mental and physical well-being is most important. They will remember how they felt during this time - it may even stay with them long after the dust has settled.
If your child is experiencing excessive anxiety or you are concerned about their well-being, please do not hesitate to contact one of our psychologists.