During these times of intense fear and uncertainty, it is completely understandable that many families are experiencing an increase in emotional distress. We are all facing major life adjustments, hardships, and obstacles in our daily life that greatly challenge our ability to function well. In order to cope with these struggles and unfamiliar situations, children commonly look to their parents for answers and on how to respond. It has been found that when parents can present a calm front and provide a sense of being in control in times of emergency and distress, children can then feel safe and secure. Therefore, as we continue to take the necessary steps to address Covid-19 within our communities, below are 3 tips on how we can attempt to calmly carry on at home:
- Self-Care for Parents: Staying calm with your children has to first start with you. Not only are you modeling emotion regulation to your children, but you also need to be able to take care of yourself before you can effectively manage your children’s thoughts and feelings about this pandemic. This includes taking the time to speak with friends, routinely touch base with family members, and seek professional mental help if extra support is needed. Self-care efforts also involve getting enough sleep, eating healthy meals, and getting some physical exercise in when you can. While the concept of self-care is not new, these unprecedented times only highlight its importance in helping us endure.
- Keep Familiar and Healthy Routines: When parents provide familiar routines and structure at home during this quarantine, children can experience a sense of normalcy and the feeling of being grounded. This includes keeping similar bedtimes and morning routines, having consistent meal times with family members, and allowing for structured down time for play and fun. In a similar manner, choresare another way to provide a source of comfort to children because they are familiar and can be used to establish healthy routines. They also can allow children to feel a sense of competency, responsibility, and to practice self-regulation skills. Parents should collaborate with their children on chores, provide options, and keep it fun and interactive.
- Address Children’s Fears: In order to help children feel that they are emotionally and physically safe, parents should respond to questions in a composed, honest, and age appropriate manner. This may involve basic information about health conditions, proper hygiene, and the importance of social distancing. Efforts to address fears and provide real answers can help clarify any worries that may have developed from watching the news or reading information online. Additionally, it is essential that parents highlight the many aspects in their child’s daily life that is within their control, how the family is practicing staying safe, and how to stay positive about the future. Recognizing your child’s perspective not only validates their thoughts and feelings related to the pandemic, but fosters resilience and strengthens the understanding that as a family, we will get through this together.
Ashley Hallheimer, PsyD
Licensed Clinical Psychologist