Welcome to the first blog in our latest blog series Coping with COVID-19. Over the next few weeks, we will do our best to provide you with information and helpful tips for navigating the world we live in right now. First up, let’s talk about helping kids cope with COVID-19.
School busses are running, classes are back in session, and we are halfway through September. Can you believe it? It is not uncommon for children and adolescents (and of course, their parents) to experience a wide variety of emotions in the first weeks of September. This September especially, emotions may be high as kids return to school for the first time since March of this year.
This school year is going to look different for students and their parents, and that’s okay! Here are some tips for helping young people understand and cope with COVID-19:
1) Validate their feelings.
Understanding COVID-19 and keeping up with the latest information can be confusing for adults; imagine how confusing it must be for kids! Some children may be experiencing anxiety about contracting coronavirus, while others may be frustrated with physical distancing guidelines. Some children may not understand why they can no longer hug/high-five their friends, while others may miss their extra-curricular activities. Try to validate their feelings. Validating your child’s feelings might include saying things like:
- “It’s okay to feel anxious. I feel anxious too sometimes.”
- “I know it can be hard staying away from your friends; it is important we all do our best to stop the spread of this virus.”
- “It’s hard when we can’t hug our friends. What are some other ways we can show them we care about them?”
When parents can validate their children’s feelings, they feel safe expressing their feelings and asking questions.
2) Let them lead the conversation.
If you are a parent or a caregiver and you are talking about COVID-19 with children, it is important to let them lead the conversation. Let them ask questions. The National Association of School Psychologists recommends letting children’s questions guide your conversations. When answering questions, do your best to provide accurate, age-appropriate information, and most importantly, be honest: remember “I don’t know” is an acceptable answer when navigating challenging conversations.
3) Be a positive role model.
During these uncertain and unprecedented times, children look to adults and model their behaviour accordingly. Set a good example by being a positive role model for them. When your children see you washing your hands frequently, practicing physical distancing and wearing a mask/face covering, they will too. If your children see you responding calmly and compassionately to COVID-19, they will be inspired to do the same. Being a positive role model for children and adolescents includes monitoring your own well-being too! The Child Mind Institute recommends taking time to manage your own anxiety before answering your child’s questions about COVID-19.
4) Use creativity to make their “new normal” less scary.
Although this fall may be full of unique challenges, it doesn’t have to be scary! Take this opportunity to get creative as you help children adjust to their “new normal” this fall. Here are some tips & tricks to be creative:
- Make handwashing at home a frequent and FUN occurrence. Experts recommend washing your hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and water. See how many songs you and your children can sing that last at least 20 seconds.
- Although summer may be over, the weather outside is still great for a walk, hike or run.
- As children will be required to wear masks while indoors at school, help them adjust to their masks by wearing them at home. Watching cartoons on the couch? Wear a mask for an episode! Playing Fortnite? Wear a mask for a game!
Although this September may be different than Septembers past, validating your child’s feelings, taking care of your own well-being and getting creative can help you help your kids cope with COVID-19!
Want more information? Don’t forget to check out our list of resources here: https://waterloocbt.ca/resources/
Author: Lindsey Erin Feltis, MA