Friday 3 April, 2020

A simple guide to helping children deal with the stress of COVID-19

The spread of the coronavirus has caused a cosmic shift, upending almost every facet of life as we’ve come to know it.

Countries have closed their borders, the cruise industry is at a stand-still, and some businesses have been ordered closed, while others have been forced to change their system of operations.

Unfortunately, children have not been spared from the COVID-19 fallout.

Schools have been closed and citizens are being urged to practice social distancing as governments attempt to stymie the spread of the virus.

This has resulted in hundreds of thousands of children being stuck at home, with all playdates, trips to the playground and sporting activities cancelled for the foreseeable future. 

Social interaction is critical to children’s development, so it is imperative that parents/guardians find ways to keep them engaged as they struggle to come to terms with the new normal.

But how do we help them deal with the stress of change?

Child Psychologist Tyneille Graham believes that if parents approach the changes wrought by the coronavirus with calm confidence, they could offer much-needed support to their children who are grappling to come to terms with the changes as well.

She told Loop News “Children of today are usually very active. They’re involved in a range of activities after school as well as on weekends. Some include sports, after school homework clubs, religious groups etc. Drastically shifting from that amount of activities to being isolated can lead to phobias, depression and/ or anxiety.”

Graham said children often feed off the energy of the adults closest to them, so parents should stay calm and talk to their children about the situation at hand.

These conversations, she said, should be simple and age appropriate.

The Child Psychologist said the monotony of staying in the same environment and seeing the same faces everyday can become very frustrating.

While children react differently to stressful situations, she believes that constant conversations and reassurances could make the changes a lot easier to deal with.

She said for children to cope with the unpredictability of the fast-spreading virus, there must be some structure in the midst of all the chaos.

 “One thing parents/ guardians can do is to create a daily schedule so that children can have something to look forward to. Schedules give structure and routine. As structure is something they’re used to, it will give them a sense of purpose and something to look forward to. I would suggest that every schedule should include a physical activity, educational activity and quality time with parents/ guardians,” she told Loop News.

Here's how you can increase your child’s capacity to deal with stress related to the coronavirus:

  • Using age appropriate language,  talk to your children about the COVID-19 pandemic
  • Give them the opportunity to share their feelings and concerns
  • Make them feel safe
  • Limit their exposure to news coverage of the pandemic
  • Be consistent with routines
  • Use technology to connect with family and friends

Children respond to stress in different ways, some may be clingy and anxious, while others may become withdrawn and angry.

Like you, they’re simply trying to adapt.

Be patient. Be supportive. Be kind.

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