COVID-19 (coronavirus disease) is an infectious respiratory disease caused by a new form of the coronavirus. While most people who get COVID-19 experience mild to moderate symptoms and recover without needing specialized care, older adults and individuals with chronic medical conditions are more likely to experience serious respiratory illness.
Stay at home orders have been put in place around the United States in order to try to slow the spread of COVID-19. Many adults have been temporarily sent home from work without pay, and the coronavirus situation is constantly evolving. Given that the situation is overwhelming and confusing for most adults, can you imagine how anxious children are feeling right now? While you may not be able to take away kids' anxiety completely, you can use these tips to help kids experiencing anxiety due to coronavirus.
Anxiety in Children
Unlike adults, kids experiencing anxiety may not have the words they need to describe what they're feeling. Kids experiencing anxiety may express fear or worry, but there are several other ways in which anxiety may show up in kids. Kids with anxiety may experience physical symptoms, such as stomachaches, headaches, sleeping difficulties, shaking or sweating in specific situations, and tense muscles.
Children who cry a lot, are grumpy or irritable without any apparent cause, have nightmares, or have panic attacks may be experiencing anxiety. Children with anxiety may also find it difficult to concentrate, be clingy, worry often or have negative thoughts, seek constant reassurance, and feel fatigued.
How to Help Kids Experiencing Anxiety Due to Coronavirus
Talk About It: You may think that avoiding conversations about coronavirus with kids is best, but this can actually make kids feel more anxious. Sit down with your kids, and provide them with some facts about COVID-19. Don't volunteer too much information. Allow them to ask whatever questions they have about the disease.
When you're answering questions about the disease, be as factual as possible. If you don't know the answer to something, it's okay to tell your kids that you don't know. What your kids need to know is that they can talk to you openly about COVID-19.
Set aside time everyday to check in with your kids. Ask them how they're doing, and encourage them to ask any questions they have about coronavirus during this time.
Provide Validation: Don't discount, make fun of, dismiss, or reject your kids' feelings. Validating their feelings doesn't mean that you necessarily agree with the beliefs underlying their feelings, but it does mean that you acknowledge your kids' emotions. Let your kids know that many people are feeling anxious right now, and that it is okay to feel this way. Validation helps children process their emotions.
Model Calmness: Children are very perceptive, and they can pick up on your anxiety, even if you are not expressing it directly. It is okay for you to feel anxious; however, it is important to model calmness in front of your children.
Monitor your own anxiety levels closely. When you're feeling anxious, take a few minutes to do some deep breathing or meditation. Don't have conversations about COVID-19 with your kids when you're feeling anxious.
Encourage all the adults who live in your home to model calmness for the kids. When kids see that the adults around them are calm about the situation, they will feel more secure.
Maintain Routine: Changes in routine are stressful for kids, so maintain your kids' normal schedule as much as you can. If your kids' school has closed, try to create a structured daily routine. Your kids' daily routine should include time for schoolwork, play, regularly scheduled meals, and a normal bedtime.
Focus on the Precautions You're Taking: Focusing on the safety precautions you're taking can help your children feel more secure. Inform your kids on the measures they can take to protect themselves from COVID-19. Washing your hands is one of the primary ways you can protect yourself from coronavirus, so remind your kids to wash their hands frequently. Teach them to wash their hands for 20 seconds each time by singing the, “Happy Birthday” song through twice while they lather up.
Teach your kids to stay at least six feet away from other people if they need to go outside the home.
COVID-19 is currently affecting every aspect of our lives. During this uncertain time, it's completely normal for kids to experience anxiety. You can help your kids by prsoviding reassurance, keeping a routine, and letting them know that you are always there to talk to them about their worries.