The coronavirus pandemic took the world by surprise in March 2020. It was a new journey for everyone. Parents had to wear many hats during this time- full-time parent, teacher, and employee. We had nationwide lockdowns, schools became virtual, and families were home together more than before. It was also a time when we noticed children were more anxious, stressed, depressed, and socially limited. With all the changes happening, it can be overwhelming and cause strong emotions in children, teenagers, adults, and families. Stress is a normal and healthy response to perceived threats and challenges. It’s a response that gets us ready to act — to protect ourselves and our loved ones. Coping with stress will make you, the people you care about, and your community stronger. So, how do we identify and help those around us?
Recognizing the Signs
Children sometimes don’t understand what they feel or think. They struggle with change and have a hard time expressing themselves. So, they begin to express themselves in ways they know. Some behavioral changes that can be observed in your child are, but are not limited to:
Excessive crying or irritation in younger children
Returning to behaviors they have outgrown (ie: toileting accidents or bedwetting).
Excessive worry or sadness
Change in sleeping habits
“Acting out” behaviors
Poor school performance or avoiding school
Difficulties with attention and concentration
Avoiding activities they once enjoyed
Unexplained headaches or body pain
Less social interaction in the family or with friends
How Can Parents Help
Spending more time with your children provides an opportunity to be active in their lives but is also a time when you notice some of these changes that weren’t there before. It is okay not to know where to start, which is why I’ve compiled some tools and tips that could be helpful for the family.
Validate emotions and thoughts
Validation goes a long way. It provides a sense for your child that he or she is heard and seen that he or she is going through something he/she cannot understand. Have a conversation with them about what he/she is feeling.
Practice with your child identifying what emotions are felt through using the words (happy, sad, nervous, mad, etc).
Your child will know what to expect in a time of unexpectedness. Implementing a routine allows for a sense of security in which the child knows what is going to happen next.
Check in with your child
Having frequent check-ins with your child provides your child the safety and comfortability of knowing that your child can express his or her thoughts.
Have a conversation with them and open the door to having answering questions they may have about the Pandemic
Focus on the positivity
In times of hardship, focusing on what’s going well and what’s positive is a great way to reframe these difficult times. Rewarding your child for attending school, completing homework, positive behaviors can encourage more positivity in your child and family.
Start a coping skills box
A coping skills box, or toolbox, can have a variety of items that your child can access and utilize when he/she is anxious or overwhelmed. In this box, items can be: journals, crayons, stress ball, bubbles, coloring books, poppers, et cetera. Make it special for them!
COMIC: A Kids’ Guide To Coping With The Pandemic (And A Printable Zine) (https://www.npr.org/sections/goatsandsoda/2020/11/17/933920696/comic-a-kids-guide-to-coping-with-the-pandemic-and-a-printable-zine)