Raising Kids and Staying Grounded during the Corona Virus Crisis – A few tips for parents
There are many articles swirling around the internet talking about Covid 19 - Corona Virus, and how to support children at home now that they transitioned to virtual school for a few weeks. Most articles I have read provide practical tips to keep them on a schedule and busy with different activities that can break the day. Here are some quick points on talking about Coronavirus to your young kiddos and how to help them deal their feelings:
1. Manage your own anxiety and model self-regulation. Anxiety runs in families, partly due to the genetics and partly due to the modeling that occurs between parents and children. Kids do learn through observational learning and in many ways copy their parents’ behaviors. They also notice their parents’ feelings, showing them “how to feel about a situation”. Therefore, if you are anxious about the virus, chances are your children are, too. They are getting the “vibes” even if you don’t want to worry them. By managing your own anxiety, you are modeling that it is ok to feel nervous but the situation but that there is also space for reassurance and hope!
2. Practice good hygiene with your kids. Children learn from what you do, not what you say. Discuss, teach, and model hand washing and practice other healthy behaviors during the self-quarantine such as taking a shower daily and putting on clean clothes even when you are not going out.
3. Limit media exposure and provide your children facts about the Corona Virus that are developmentally appropriate. Children’s brains are not fully develop and might interpret the news in ways that are counterproductive such as worrying them or increasing anxiety and depression. Try to limit what they see and hear on the TV, social media, and radio. Kids don’t need to be updated daily on the latest developments of COVID 19 or know rates of mortality and the lack of treatment for those who are sick. They can understand tips for prevention and how can we contribute to protect those who might be at higher risk such as their grandparents.
4. Teach your kids compassion. Use this global crisis as an opportunity to teach kids about being kind, loving and serving others by staying at home and using healthy prevention practices, calling and making cards for their grandparents, those who are sick, and people who are in isolation. Teach kids to be generous by putting together care packets for neighbors or those in need, sharing what is available for the benefit of everyone.
5. Practice gratitude. During difficult times, we can learn valuable lessons. When we cultivate the habit of being grateful for every good thing that comes our way, we are more open to what is good in our lives, our awareness tends to increase and it becomes easier to notice the positive things around us, especially during this time. Gratitude helps to improve our mood, increases our sense of well-being, and helps us to stay grounded.
6. Teach your kids about feelings. This is a great opportunity to offer the space to check in with each child individually or as a family and talk about how each of you is feeling about uncertainty, the virus, self-quarantine anxiety, etc. Connect feelings to sensations in their bodies and identify ways to support each other. Normalizing talking about emotions helps increase connection and family cohesion.
7. Spend time together and apart. Yes. Give each other breaks and practice identifying when it is time to spend some time alone. Teach them how to be present to their feelings, honor their needs and respect yours. Healthy communication and boundaries is key during this time!
8. Discuss control. Talk to your children about what we can control (i.e. washing hands, staying at home, participating in family activities) and what we can’t control (i.e. getting sick, special events being cancelled, not being able to see friends and go to places they enjoy, etc.). Fear often comes from feeling out-of-control or not knowing the difference between what we can control and what we can’t. Knowing that we have some control over in a situation helps us feel empowered and calmer.
9. Instill hope. Talk about what you wish for the future. You can make a list of activities to complete with your children when the self-quarantine is over or create signs of hope to post on your windows. Having a sense of active participation and hope for the future will help increase positive feelings and a sense of community and belonging. We are all in this together.
10. Be patient and kind. Teaching kindness and compassion to your children will require being kind and compassionate towards them and others, but especially towards yourself. You will make mistakes as a parent. How you deal with stress and mistakes will make a difference in your child’s connection to you and how they learn to express their emotions and deal with stressful situations.
Weather you have an infant or a teen, your children need to see you acting on the values that you are teaching them. You need to be their champion and role model healthy behaviors and emotional regulation. The unknown can be scary, but it can serve as a great opportunity to teach kids incredible lessons and resilience. Take this time to connect with your child and make the most out of this challenging experience. For more information about my services and therapy for children or adults, please contact me directly at 561.305.2497 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I will provide a FREE phone consultation! Online therapy services are available in English and Spanish.