How to Talk to Your Child About the COVID-19 Pandemic
The COVID-19 pandemic has been difficult for many children to handle. Some families have lost loved ones, others have spent months in quarantine fighting the disease together. Furthermore, many individuals have lost their jobs, resulting in food deprivation or homelessness.
Since the pandemic began, children have hardly had a “normal” school year. While they adjust and adapt quickly to hybrid or remote classes to ensure social distancing practices are followed, recent data from the pandemic suggests many children have increased stress levels, including symptoms of anxiety and depression.
As a parent, it can be hard to hide how scared you feel for your children in this unpredictable time, but you must be their light in the darkness. As you acknowledge the inconveniences accompanying the pandemic, you must also find appropriate ways to talk to your children about the COVID-19 pandemic.
Provide Honest Information
Sometimes you do not know the right words for children's difficult questions. That's okay; just be honest with them. Begin by asking your child what they know about the pandemic, then correct any misinformation. Carve out time for you and your child to commit to the conversation without interruptions. Though you may feel tense about the topic, remember to remain calm, so your child is comfortable saying what is on their mind and doesn't become more worried.
Validate your child's feelings and thoughts. Let them know it is okay to feel nervous, disappointed, or angry because their lives look different from what they have been accustomed to. Most importantly, be in the moment with them, ensuring they know they are not alone.
Talk to Your Child About Healthy Ways to Cope During the Pandemic
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, parents should reassure their children they are safe and it is okay to feel anxious or upset. Additionally, parents should set an example for their children by showing them how to work through stress and teaching them coping skills. Below are ways to help your child cope with stress during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Take a Breather
Life can be overwhelming, even without a pandemic constantly interfering with how we function day-to-day. Adding in the repercussions of COVID-19 can cause daily tasks to become intolerable while adjusting to the endlessly shifting guidelines for safety and social distancing. Take breaks from social media, news stories, or electronic devices to ensure your and your children's mental health remains intact.
Make Time to Relax
Set aside time with your children to enjoy various hobbies you both enjoy, such as painting, dancing, or reading a book—whatever you find relaxing or that helps you decompress.
Protect Your Health
Just because a pandemic exists does not mean life stops or you stop taking care of yourself. Beyond COVID-19 health measures, you and your child can try out new exercise routines, practice healthy eating habits, and find hobbies that keep your mind healthy.
Connect With Others
Human beings have an innate need to socialize with other humans. Talking with family or friends about your worries or what's on your mind can help reduce any anxiety you or your child feel during the pandemic.
Connect With the Community and Faith-Based Organizations
Just as it is crucial to stay connected with family or friends, it is also essential that you and your child continue to communicate with your community or faith-based organizations you participated in previously. Remaining united will help keep spirits up and stressors down.
What to Say if a Loved One Passes Away From COVID-19
Adults often try to shield their children from suffering, but sometimes preparing them for and talking them through the hard things can protect them the most. Children are perceptive to what is going on around them, so when they see parents or other loved ones worried and upset, they may become sad or even stressed in reaction. That is why it is essential to talk to your children about the COVID-19 pandemic and what that could mean for loved ones who become ill.
If someone in the family passes away from COVID-19, what you say to your child should be honest and age-appropriate so they can understand. If the hard conversations aren’t happening between you and your children, they could draw their own—potentially incorrect—conclusions about what is going on and feel left alone to deal with challenging circumstances.
Research reveals parents often need advice from healthcare professionals when talking to their children about illness and death. The isolation accompanying COVID-19 increases the urgent need for support in handling emotional stress and anxiety. COVID-19 has presented many changes for day-to-day life, and it is essential to guide your children through each shift with a positive and calming frame of mind. Learning how to communicate with your children about the pandemic, cope with stress or anxiety, and lose loved ones is challenging. However, you need to be able to find the words and ways to intercept developing fears and uncertainty your children might face alone if you remained silent.
The COVID-19 pandemic offers parents the opportunity to connect with their children in these times of uncertainty. It can be difficult to find the right words and ways to communicate with your children, especially if you are not trained in treating signs of anxiety or depression. Achieve Medical Center offers an inclusive mental health program for children, adolescents, and adults in California, Oregon, and Alaska. If you or a loved one are experiencing stress or other symptoms due to the changes accompanying the pandemic, we want to help. Achieve’s team of psychiatrists takes the necessary steps to ensure each patient can continue to receive the care they need through our comprehensive telemedicine platform. We understand each patient is unique, and we can develop a treatment plan that is right for you. If you or a loved one are struggling with anxiety, depression, or other mental health issues, call us today at (619) 381-8249 to learn more about our services.