With children home from school, they may be exposed to a stream of frightening headlines about COVID-19. They also may be confused or disappointed about postponing a variety of activities, vacations and special occasions.
Parents worry about children becoming anxious or depressed during the COVID-19 pandemic. To help children cope, there are positive steps—parents along with grandparents, aunts and uncles, and babysitters—can take.
With the goal of promoting a positive attitude and outlook for children, try implementing these six guidelines in ways that fit your family’s style:
- Plan a structured day at home: Encourage children to participate in deciding how to spend the day. What times of day will be devoted to schoolwork, chores, exercise, creative projects and relaxing? Work together to make a schedule for each day. Perhaps ask your children to draw their day’s plan for the next day and post it on the refrigerator or in their room.
- Acknowledge and validate children’s feelings: Fear and loneliness are normal when experiencing changes such as social distancing and hearing bad news caused by COVID-19. Giving up special plans can be really disappointing. Ask your children to talk about how they really feel.
- Focus on the positive: Remind your children about all the characteristics that make them special. Say how pleased you and their relatives are to spend more time with them. Be generous with praise and compliments.
- Build bridges: To reduce the feelings of isolation during social distancing, organize Facetime, Skype and texting with friends and family. Encourage children to stay in touch with grandparents who also may be home alone.
- Clarify the rules: Children and adolescents still need to be held accountable for their actions. Rules still apply, even during stressful times.
- Strengthen children’s immune system and mental health: Make sure everyone gets enough sleep, drinks plenty of fluids and eats nutritious meals.
There is no denying that these are troubling times. Remember that we are all in this together and there are brighter days ahead.
Understanding culture is vital for healthcare professionals and their patients. In her book, Are You Culturally Competent? Elisa P. Bell, M.D. bridges cultural gaps to improve healthcare outcomes.
By Elisa P. Bell, M.D.
Board certified physician in both adult and child/adolescent psychiatry
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