Since the pandemic started, many parents have wondered how to help their child(ren) cope with their fears and anxiety. In many cases, they’re also helping children handle the illness or loss of a loved one due to COVID-19 as. Certified Child Life Specialist Marisa Martinez answers some frequently asked questions and provides tips and resources for parents and families.
When helping children deal with their fears and anxieties, it is important to have open-ended conversations with the child to learn what misconceptions they may have and to be able to address their questions. This coloring book created by a Certified Child Life Specialist helps to explain coronavirus in an age-appropriate way.
When children do ask questions, we do not always have the answers or know how to answer. This resource created by a child life student helps address children’s questions about COVID-19. If you are someone who likes podcasts, you can also listen to this podcast episode about using appropriate language while talking with children.
Both children and adults see a lot of information through the news, social media and conversations between family and friends about this virus. Even if you think the children are not listening or do not understand, it is important to know that children are great observers and listeners but are sometimes not the best interpreters. Especially for children who are 7-8 years old and younger. Developmentally they can have a stage of “magical thinking” that influences their brain in a way that makes it difficult to separate reality from fantasy and this can create more misconceptions.
When a loved one is in the hospital and critically ill due to COVID-19 or any other circumstances, saying goodbye from afar can be difficult when visiting is not allowed. Children need opportunities and choices to say goodbye to help them cope with the death.
If someone in your life has died due to COVID-19, death and dying may be a concept you’re dealing with in your home. By encouraging your children to ask questions and by providing honest, age-appropriate information about death, you can help your child better understand and cope with this situation.
Some ways to help your child:
It’s great to offer opportunities for children to engage in self-expressive activities, including art projects for loved ones, and you can utilize virtual tools to remain connected with friends and family. Try to make a routine for the day, when possible, so the child knows what to expect and has a sense of normalcy throughout the week. In this article you will find guidance on how to promote emotional resiliency and emotional regulation.
These are trying times and many people are connected from this shared experience of being away from family members and feeling afraid of the unknown. Remember to lean on your loved ones and have open communication about what is going on and what can help you.
It is important to go easy on yourself as a parent/caregiver and remember that parental coping and self-care can positively impact your children’s coping. Everyone is balancing a lot and if you are able to do the smallest amount of self-care those are positive steps to promote effective coping.
Some self-care ideas:
For more resources related to COVID-19 and children’s coping and understanding, please visit the Association of Child Life Professionals.