How to Help Kids Cope In the Age of Coronavirus
By Mimi Sheffer
In the midst of the Coronavirus Pandemic, we are all tensely watching the 24-hour news cycle and anxiously waiting for the next government update. While we are protecting our families by paying close attention to the news, our children are being subjected to the same information without the ability to process it in a healthy way. We want our children to emerge from the coronavirus scare without being emotionally scarred by it. To help them, it’s important to understand how children are viewing this global crisis and take proactive steps to help them cope and feel safe in the midst of so much uncertainty. Here is a list of things you can do now to protect your kids. Six Ways to Help Kids Cope in the Age of the Coronavirus: 1- Avoid obsessing. The 24-hour news cycle can be too much. Quickly check for news updates when kids are occupied with other projects or activities. Get informed and then turn it off. Do not keep the news on throughout the day; the children are listening and taking in all that fear and anxiety that is being reported and being adversely impacted by it. 2 - Keep a positive focus.
Help kids find the positives in the situation by finding - and focusing on - positive aspects. Hold casual daily discussions and focus on the positives of each day. Since sports and other activities have been discontinued, many families are spending more time together than usual. The togetherness can have a profound and lasting impact on kids, and it’s something to be celebrated in the middle of all the anxiety. Make an effort to document the positive aspects of each day. Have them draw or write about their favorite moments. Parents can journal during this time as well, documenting events during this time, as a recording of your family history.
3 - Stay cool and calm. Kids pick up on our stress and emotions, so keep calm in front of them. When feeling overwhelmed, remove yourself to another room and get re-centered. It’s ok to let kids know you are concerned and cautious but worry is contagious, and can become a constant companion for them if they see you struggling with it. 4 - Talk about it. Help kids conquer their fears by getting comfortable talking about their feelings. As they open up, you’ll be able to comfort them and help them process the situation more easily. 5 - Hugs help. Kids may be too old to ask for hugs or to be held and rocked but touch therapy helps calm them.
Hugging triggers the release of oxytocin, the ‘feel-good’ hormone that has important effects on the body, such as boosting their immune systems, and an increase in the release of growth hormones, helping kids grow healthy and strong. A 20-second hug can end a temper tantrum, help children feel safe when they are feeling out of control and help calm the nervous system by reducing stress and relieving anxiety. A simple hug can do wonders for children who are feeling overwhelmed and frightened, even if they don’t have the ability to articulate those feelings. 6 – Schedule Fun Breaks. We’re likely to drive each other crazy during this social distancing time at home, so taking or making time for Fun Breaks is essential to our sanity. Even if you’re stressed trying to do all-the-things, make it a daily priority to have some fun together. Try making each day’s family activity something different. For example, Mondays can be game night, Tuesdays can be Taco Night where you all cook and prep Tacos together. Wednesday is a great night for Winding Down by reading together as a family, whether you choose to read one book together as a family or you choose to each read independently while sitting together in the same room. Throwback Thursdays are a good day to go through old photos and tell funny stories. Kids love hearing about your childhood and seeing the hysterical clothes you wore as a kid. Finding a theme for each day can help you mark the time as a family and give the kids some predictability. 7 – Exercise
Social distancing means most of us are staying home and doing less than normal, which translates into less exercise and movement. Make family exercise a priority in your home by utilizing free online resources, like YouTube, to explore different exercise videos. Allow the kids to choose the type of exercise routine each day and explore different methods of exercise, like yoga or meditation, stretching and zumba. Kids love the opportunity to work out with their parents and exercising as a family reinforces this healthy habit. A tremendous benefit of exercise is improving mental and emotional health. Anxiety can increase a person’s risk for depression and lead to future health problems like diabetes and cardiovascular issues. Exercise not only diverts attention from the source of anxiety, it decreases muscular tension and increases blood flow to the brain and body, making your whole body feel better and improving your mood. Kids who learn to work off stress by exercising develop a healthy, lifelong coping mechanism.