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Helping kids cope with COVID-19

It is very important to remember that children look to adults for guidance on how to react to stressful events. If parents seem overly worried, children’s anxiety may rise. Parents should reassure children that health and school officials are working hard to ensure that people throughout the country stay healthy.

A global pandemic very obviously has wide-ranging impact on everyone. Health concerns, economic concerns, uncertainty in everyday life — there is no shortage of issues to be worried about when dealing with COVID-19. What is absolutely critical though is that we do not lose focus on those most vulnerable in our community. And that group includes our children.

There are plenty of great resources online that offer information on best practices to make sure our children are healthy — physically, emotionally, and mentally. The physical aspect, while most important, is probably the easiest. Practice social distancing, and listen to health, governmental, and community leaders as they advise us all on the best ways to keep ourselves safe from contracting COVID-19. What is not as nearly as easy is monitoring our kids' mental health.

Below are some helpful tips that focus on issues of mental health and children's wellbeing.

Combat fears with facts

Whether they're a kindergartener or a high schooler, your child might need you to calm their fears. Fortunately, there are readily available facts that can do just that.

As stated at weareteachers.com:

Some kids simply need facts to feel a bit better. One of the most comforting aspects of this terrifying pandemic is that kids seem to be largely unaffected, aside from the fact that they pose a danger as silent carriers to more vulnerable populations. Science Alert reports that “The number of reported COVID-19 cases in children remains low: of more than 44,000 confirmed cases from China, only 416 (less than 1 percent) were aged nine years or younger. No deaths were reported in this age group.

Encourage virtual connections

Social distancing does create some negative side effects. One of the biggest is the feeling of isolation. This is bound to be felt even harder by children, who are used to being surrounded by all of their friends and classmates while at school. Encouraging them to maintain and build relationships with their friends, all the while safely practicing social distancing, is vital, and easily done. Resources like Skype, Zoom, and Google Hangouts allow them to virtually spend time with friends, participate in school work and activities, and simply forget that they're stuck at home.

Mental health red flags

It is critically important to recognize red flags of deteriorating mental health. Cultivate ways for your kids to express their thoughts and concerns. Keep a close eye on at-risk kids, speficially those who have struggled previously with mental health concerns.

Keep explantions age appropriate

The National Association of School Psychologists (NASP) and National Association of School Nurses (NASN) have put out joint tips on how to appropriately discuss COVID-19 with your children, based on their age.

  • Early elementary school children need brief, simple information that should balance COVID-19 facts with appropriate reassurances that their schools and homes are safe and that adults are there to help keep them healthy and to take care of them if they do get sick. Give simple examples of the steps people take every day to stop germs and stay healthy, such as washing hands. Use language such as “adults are working hard to keep you safe.”
  • Upper elementary and early middle school children will be more vocal in asking questions about whether they truly are safe and what will happen if COVID-19 comes to their school or community. They may need assistance separating reality from rumor and fantasy. Discuss efforts of school and community leaders to prevent germs from spreading.
  • Upper middle school and high school students are able to discuss the issue in a more in-depth (adult-like) fashion and can be referred directly to appropriate sources of COVID-19 facts. Provide honest, accurate, and factual information about the current status of COVID-19. Having such knowledge can help them feel a sense of control.

Sources, additional resources

Supporting Kids’ Mental Health During the COVID-19 Pandemic | WeAreTeachers.com

Helping Children Cope With Changes Resulting From COVID-19 | National Association of School Psychologists

How to Help Kids Deal With Cyberbullying | Child Mind Institue

NASP/NASN comprehensive parental guide on dealing with COVID-19

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