Keeping children calm in a pandemic
Maintaining good physical and mental health during COVID-19 is vital for all of us, adults and children alike.
Whilst we seem to be cognizant of the physical effects of this pandemic and the key ‘symptoms’ to look out for, high priority needs to be given to nurturing our psychological wellbeing.
Although remaining optimistic and having a positive mindset can be difficult during challenging times, there are a number of things that parents can do to support their sons during this period of change and uncertainty:
Validate his feelings
Acknowledge, normalise and validate your child’s feelings and emotions by letting him know that what he’s thinking and feeling is actually really normal given the circumstances, and that lots of other people are feeling the same way.
It’s also important to reassure him that health and school officials are working diligently around the country, and in particular at his school, to put preventative measures in place to keep people healthy and safe.
Limit news exposure
We need to be mindful of what our children see or hear on media outlets or online. Constant media updates on the status of Covid-19 and the increasing number of cases or death rates can become overwhelming. Whilst it’s important to be open and honest with children and provide them with age-appropriate factual information, repeated media exposure can cause psychological distress.
Keep routines in place
Children thrive on predictability, especially during a time of crisis when many things are unknown. Developing and maintaining daily routines and schedules are really important, given we know that consistency and structure are calming during times of stress and can help to reduce anxiety.
Look after yourself
Children are astute ‘mood detectives’ and are adept at picking up on parents’ anxieties and stress, so the most important thing we can do as parents is to take care of our own mental health. As the saying goes, we need to put on our own oxygen masks before we can help others.
Self-care and checking-in with ourselves is vital, so investing time into our own wellbeing by engaging in exercise, eating well, getting a good night’s sleep and maintaining social connections (even online if need be) should be prioritized.
Although anxiety and fear can be contagious, calmness is also contagious – it’s about managing our own stress so that we can then model the behaviours we expect of our children.
Seeking professional support if you are really struggling sends a healthy message to our children that it is okay to ask for help and it normalises help-seeking behaviour, which is also important.
Olivia Tims is a School Psychologist/Counsellor with over 20 years’ experience working with young people. This article is about Parenting
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