Fear, uncertainty, and being holed up at home more to slow the spread of COVID-19 can make it tough for families to keep a sense of calm. But it's important to help children feel safe, keep healthy routines, manage their emotions and behavior and build resilience.
Here are some tips to help your family get through the stress of the pandemic.
Children rely on their parents for safety, both physical and emotional. Reassure your children that you are there for them and that your family will get through this together.
During the pandemic, it is more important than ever to maintain bedtime and other routines. They create a sense of order to the day that offers reassurance in a very uncertain time. All children, including teens, benefit from routines that are predictable yet flexible enough to meet individual needs.
Children often have more trouble with bedtime during any stressful period. Try to keep normal nighttime routines such as Book, Brush, Bed for younger children. Put a family picture by their bed for “extra love" until morning. Bedtimes can shift some for older children and teens, but it is a good idea to keep it in a reasonable range so the sleep-wake cycle isn't thrown off. Too little sleep makes it more challenging to learn and to deal with emotions. Remember to turn off cell phones and other mobile devices an hour before bedtime.
Everyone is more anxious and worried during the pandemic. Younger children may not have the words to describe their feelings. They're more likely to act out their stress, anxiety or fear through their behavior (which can, in turn, upset parents, particularly if they are already stressed). Older children and teens may be extra irritable as they miss out on normal events they looked forward to and activities they enjoy with their friends.
Some ways you can help your children manage their emotions and behavior:
Even with everyone home together 24/7, set aside some special time with each child. Ideas can include cooking or reading together, for example, or playing a favorite game. You choose the time, and let your child choose the activity. Just 10 or 20 minutes of your undivided attention, even if only once every few days, will mean a lot to your child. Keep cell phones off or on silent so you don't get distracted.
Parents and caregivers should never shake or jerk a child, which could cause permanent injuries and disabilities and even result in death.
In many cases, the answers will deflate the panic and the impulse to lash out physically or verbally at children.
Reach out to your pediatrician with any concerns you have about your child's behavioral or emotional well-being and managing your family's stress.