written by Melissa Hager Psychologist (Axis Clinic)
Coronavirus (COVID-19) is new and has presented various challenges and changes for individuals and families all around the world. Research and statistics currently suggest that from a physical stand point, the virus seems to affect children much less severely than older people (Raisingchildren, 2020). It is important however to view health holistically and also consider and manage the impact COVID-19 may have on your child’s mental health.
As a parent you are not alone in your concerns and worries as you navigate the current impact and changes COVID-19 has presented us with. Most of us are worrying about what is happening and that is okay. Children as individuals will have different ways of responding to what is happening and as parents/and or carers we have an important role in helping to support our children and their mental health and well-being. You are not alone in the many questions you may have when it comes to your children. You might have questions like what do I tell my child about COVID-19? How do I talk about what they might know and how they feel? Do I talk about how I feel? How is COVID-19 impacting my child’s wellbeing now and in the future?
It is recommended to make time to have a chat. Talking with your children about COVID-19 will help you and your children come together to make sense of how the virus is impacting you as a family as well as them as an individual. Talking can help children make sense of what they are feeling, hearing and seeing. It also can provide time for you to validate their feelings and provide re-assuring information to help them manage their worries.
So we know COVID-19 may cause worry and anxiety for your children. What are some practical things we can do to help them cope, and to support their mental health during this time?
- Increase child-parent play time - at the moment you may find that you are spending more time at home. Utilise this time to engage in more play activities with your children. Research suggests that child-parent playtime promotes a stronger relationship between you and your child which can help children cope better with stress (Emerging Minds, 2020)
- Some examples of child-parent playtime activities might include; playing with toys, physical play outdoors and pretend play.
- Limit media exposure - monitor the amount of media coverage both you and your family are being exposed to. It’s not helpful to continue to listen to distressing information on repeat. Keep informed appropriately and place reasonable limitations on this e.g. watching the news once a day for 30minutes.
- Listen to your child’s concerns and acknowledge them. You may find this a helpful time to also share how you are feeling to normalise talking about and sharing feelings.
- Keep to regular routines and schedules to the best of your ability. This may mean creating some new routines, which are based around the home and things that can be done at home.
- Provide facts, which you have sourced from reputable resources like the World Health Organisation. Below is a list of helpful resource websites for information specific to children.
- Create times to play, relax and have a laugh. This may include ideas like playing a board game, exercise at home such as child friendly yoga, reading funny books, playing games in the backyard, turning some house chores into fun games.
- Be mindful of your own feelings and distractions. Given the constant updates available it can be easy to get caught up in our mobiles, tablets and computers. Be mindful of the time you are spending on these devices and ensure you are actively present and putting these things aside when interacting with your children.