Our core value of family is of great importance to us, especially during this time. For our Associates who have children, we recognize how difficult this situation is for you. Today’s message focuses on you by providing tips from ChildTrends.org on how to help your children during this pandemic.
- Understand that reactions to the pandemic may vary.
Children’s responses to stressful events are unique and varied. New and challenging behaviors are natural responses, and adults can help by showing empathy and patience and by calmly setting limits when needed.
- Ensure the presence of a sensitive and responsive caregiver.
The primary factor in recovery from a traumatic event is the presence of a supportive, caring adult in a child’s life. Even when a parent is not available, children can benefit greatly from the care provided by other adults (e.g., foster parents, relatives, friends).
- Social distancing should not mean social isolation.
Children need quality time with other important people in their lives. Social connectedness improves children’s chances of showing resilience to adversity. Creative approaches to staying connected are important (e.g., writing letters, online video chats).
- Provide age-appropriate information.
Children tend to rely on their imaginations when they lack adequate information. Adults should make themselves available for children to ask questions and talk about their concerns. In addition, adults should limit children’s exposure to media coverage, social media, and adult conversations about the pandemic.
- Create a safe physical and emotional environment by practicing the 3 R’s: Reassurance, Routines, and Regulation.
First, adults should reassure children about their safety and tell them that it is the adults’ job to ensure their safety. Second, adults should maintain routines to provide children with a sense of safety and predictability. And third, adults should support children’s development of regulation and encourage them to engage in activities that help them self-regulate (e.g., exercise, deep breathing, etc.)
- Keep children busy.
When children are bored, their levels of worry and disruptive behaviors may increase. Adults can provide options for safe activities (e.g., outside play, blocks, modeling clay, art, music, games) and involve children in brainstorming other creative ideas. Children need ample time to engage in play and other joyful or learning experiences without worrying or talking about the pandemic.
- Increase children’s self-efficacy.
Self-efficacy is the sense of having agency or control—an especially important trait during times of fear and uncertainty. Children often feel more in control when they can play an active role in helping themselves, their families, and their communities. For example, children can help by following safety guidelines (e.g., washing their hands), preparing for home confinement (e.g., helping to cook and freeze food), etc.
- Create opportunities for caregivers (which may mean yourself!) to take care of themselves.
Children’s well-being depends on the well-being of their parents and other caregivers. Caregivers must take care of themselves so that they have the internal resources to care for others. Seeking help from a mental health provider is also important when adults struggle with very high levels of stress and other mental health challenges.
- Seek professional help if children show signs of trauma that do not resolve relatively quickly.
Emotional and behavioral changes in children are to be expected during a pandemic. If children show an ongoing pattern of emotional or behavioral concerns (e.g., nightmares, excessive focus on anxieties, increased aggression, regressive behaviors, or self-harm) that do not resolve with support, professional help may be needed. Many mental health providers have the capacity to provide services via “telehealth” (i.e., therapy provided by telephone or an online platform).
- Emphasize strength, hope, and positivity.
Children need to feel safe, secure, and positive about their present and future. Adults can help by focusing on children’s attention on stories about how people come together, find creative solutions to difficult problems, and overcome adversity during the epidemic. Talking about these stories can be healing and reassuring to children and adults alike.