CASA GRANDE — Two name: COVID-19. Our homes, our city, our state, our country and our world have all been turned upside down because of it.
This is new. This is unknown. And quite frankly, this is a lot. If we, as adults, are feeling like this, how are our children feeling?
Data shows us that children are more vulnerable than adults when it comes to traumatic events that disrupt their daily lives, and that name has definitely done just that. With schools closing and youths being stuck at home, the “normal” that our kids know has vanished.
Many children and teens are stressed and anxious with all of these new “fears” and it is our job as parents, caregivers and caring adults to teach them how to properly deal with them and cope.
Just like adults, every child and teen handles stress differently. Some common signs of stress for parents and caregivers to look out for, include:
- Excessive crying or irritation in younger children
- Returning to behaviors they have outgrown (for example, toileting accidents or bedwetting)
- Excessive worry or sadness
- Unhealthy eating or sleeping habits
- Irritability and “acting out” behaviors in teens
- Difficulty with attention and concentration
- Avoidance of activities enjoyed in the past
- Unexplained headaches or body pain
- Use of alcohol, tobacco or other drugs
Here are some valuable tips when it comes to helping children cope during this health crisis:
1. The way that we, as adults, react during this scary time is crucial. Youths tend to mirror the reactions that they see. When parents and caregivers react calmly and confidently to these foreign stresses, children will feel safe and will eventually follow suit. In other words, lead the way.
2. Talk to your children about COVID-19 and why their world suddenly feels so different. Answer their questions and share facts (that are age appropriate) in a way that they can understand.
3. Reassure children that they are safe and validate their feelings. Let them know that it is OK to be upset, sad, scared, etc. Use this as a teaching moment to share how you process your feelings and deal with your own stress (i.e. exercise, deep breathing, music, writing). If age appropriate, show them the precautions your family has taken to help prevent the outbreak of this in your home.
4. Limit your family’s exposure to the news coverage of this world event, including social media. This can cause more confusion and fear as children may misinterpret what they hear.
5. Try to keep up with regular routines. Youths thrive on routines and the feelings of familiarity and predictability that come with them. With schools being closed, social distancing and being stuck at home, this health crisis has stripped them of their normal routines. Create an at-home schedule filled with learning, fun and relaxing activities for them to follow and have meals and bedtime stay the same as they have always been to establish structure during this time.
6. Many youths thrive off of social interaction and may begin to feel isolated during this time. So, while you are at home together spend quality time together doing something that they enjoy (i.e. reading, puzzles, coloring, board games, playing catch). Also, be creative in how they can still interact with other family members and friends outside of the home (i.e. write letters, video chat, email).
7. Lastly, one of the most important steps to helping our children during this emotional time is by taking care of yourself. This goes against every parental/caregiving gene in your body, but we cannot effectively nurture our children if we ourselves are not being properly cared for. Just like when flying, you have to put your oxygen mask on first before you can help your child. Make sure you are eating healthy, exercising, keeping in contact with family and friends, and getting enough sleep so that you have enough of you to give to your loved ones during this time.
This is a difficult and stressful time and we are all in this together. If the Casa Grande Alliance can be of any assistance during this time, reach out to us, at firstname.lastname@example.org.