Mental Health in the Time of Corona Virus: Helping Children Cope Emotionally
From your Heart of Texas Region MHMR (For more posts in this series, click here: Mental Health in the Time of Corona Virus)
Children are being flooded with information about the Coronavirus (COVID-19) from a variety of sources. This is a unique situation that may leave parents questioning what to say to their children and how to address the possible emotional fallout from this concerning and anxiety-producing time in our society.
Children need to have important, factual, and appropriate information. They are likely receiving information from peers, adults, social media, and news outlets. We know that not all of this information is accurate. Parents should provide accurate information in an effort to reduce possible confusion, fear and anxiety and to provide reassurance. Be careful not to provide too much information and keep it at a level that the child is able to understand.
Remain sensitive to your child’s mood, behavior, and any noticeable changes in regular patterns such as sleeping and eating. Some children keep their thoughts and feelings to themselves, while others act out their emotions. If you notice changes in your child, encourage them to express their feelings so you can explain and provide support. This provides safety and security for your child in the midst of difficult feelings and emotions.
Continue to have as much structure in the day as your time will allow. Life as your children know it has been disrupted probably more than any other time in their lives. They are not attending school, they may not be seeing friends, sporting events have been cancelled or postponed, and they may be staying home more. Structure can decrease the amount of anxiety a child may be feeling, and give them a sense of control.
Provide children with practices that decrease the chances of getting the virus. Inform your children of the Center for Disease Control’s recommendations on what safety steps can be taken to lessen the spread of the virus (e.g., washing hands frequently, using wipes to clean surfaces, not gathering in large groups, keeping distance from others, using proper means to cover mouth when coughing or sneezing). This will offer children a sense of control over the spread of the virus.
Be aware of your own responses to COVID-19. Children take signals from their parents. Try to be aware of how you are feeling and your own experiences around COVID-19, and how this can affect your child. Speak to a friend, spouse or other trusted person to talk about your concerns and anxieties. Don’t wait to feel overwhelmed by your worries to speak to others. Having ongoing discussion with others will help you with your own anxieties and in not feeling you are alone in your concerns.
MHMR Mental Health Hot line – 254-752-3451 or 1-866-752-3451 – 24 hours a day. For questions related to substance use challenges, call 254-297-8999. Call 911 for a life-threatening crisis.