As adults struggle to cope with and understand the COVID-19 climate, parents are increasingly looking for support on how to help their children cope with and understand life during a pandemic. Research shows there are a number of different strategies that can be implemented within the home to assist families in managing the stressors and uncertainty COVID-19 brings.
- Recognize how stress can manifest in children at home; During COVID-19, children are reportedly demonstrating stress in a variety of ways including having trouble eating/sleeping, seeking out added physical contact/touch, or demonstrating attention-seeking patterns. Regularly talking about emotions with children and maintaining outlets for relaxation and stress management is shown to largely assist children during challenges.
- Reassure their safety; Regularly emphasize that the community and the family are working to keep everyone safe. Using language which promotes feelings of safety and security can be especially helpful for children. Avoiding grim/negative discourse relating to COVID-19, while in the presence of children is also reported to be helpful for promoting reassurance, positivity, and stability in our youth.
- Provide age-appropriate information; During COVID-19, children are likely to have many questions. Customizing the information shared in relation to a child’s age is recommended. With younger children, using simplistic/easier to understand language is effective for ensuring they can access information in ways that are appropriate for their emotional/cognitive maturity level. With older children (adolescents/teenagers), speaking more objectively, complexly, and honestly may be warranted.
- Keep routine; Keeping similar schedules (e.g. meal time, bath time, bed time, free time, etc.) is reported to provide consistency, stability, and predictability in the home setting for our children when it is not as easy to find within the community or educational setting. Within routines, adding novelty is reported to benefit children in maintaining enjoyment and excitement. Designating moments to try new activities as a family is reported to benefit the family relationship while at home.
- Explain changes ahead of time; As children encounter new changes when leaving the home, it is recommended that parents speak of these changes in a preparatory manner to support children. For instance, given the re-entry into schools for some children, as well as a resurgence of extra-curricular activities and community outings (e.g. attending doctor’s appointments), discussing with children what the changes include and may look like will help children feel more prepared.