Stress-related to the coronavirus pandemic is rippling throughout the community. Whether it’s from the fear of catching the virus, losing jobs or worrying about finances, people around Australia are experiencing elevated levels of anxiety.
Did you know that children could be feeling stressed too? In younger children, it could present as them acting extra clingy and sensitive. In older children, they may be anxious about you going out, or feeling depressed about not being able to see their friends.
As a parent, you can play a key role in helping children alleviate their stress about COVID-19. Here are a few pointers.
How is COVID-19 making children worry?
You may not realise it but your child may be feeling anxious about all the change that is going on. Suddenly everyone is home all day. There is a new routine and people are talking about some scary virus that’s making everyone sick. Here is what may be running through your child’s mind:
- Why is everyone home all the time?
- Why can’t I see my friends and grandparents?
- What if I never see my friends and teachers again?
- What if mum or dad get sick the next time they go out?
- Why are mum and dad so stressed all the time?
- What is all this scary news on the TV?
How to help children manage the stress from COVID-19
1. Ask kids what they know about coronavirus
Before you launch into an explanation about the coronavirus, it’s a good idea to find out what your child already knows. Children these days get information from so many sources – TV, radio, friends, overhearing adult conversations – so it will be easier for you to explain things when you know what’s in their heads.
When you’re ready to start talking to them about the virus, use easy to understand terms and keep things simple. You don’t have to overload them with technical information. The objective should be about teaching them to stay safe and reassuring them that all this is just temporary.
2. Set up a daily routine
When the kids are not going to kinder or school anymore, having a daily routine at home can make put structure into their day. It doesn’t have to be exactly like school but when they have an idea that there are set times to wake up, work, eat and play, they may be able to feel less stressed and more in control.
Put it up on a wall or write it on a board. (Don’t forget to put some chores in too.)
3. Give extra quality time to kids
Children need extra attention when they’re stressed. You may be feeling under pressure yourself but don’t forget to reserve some extra time for your kids. Have a chat, listen to them. Let them know you’re there if they need to talk.
If you find you have more time on your hands, find an activity you can do together like teaching them how to scoot or cycle or have a play in the garden.
4. Be positive about social distancing
Show the kids that social distancing doesn’t have to be a bad thing. It could mean more quality time as a family. This is your chance to do all the things you never had time to do before like make a vegetable garden, play board games, teach your child to cycle.
Be positive about social distancing yourself. Homeschooling may be hard but look on the bright side. This could be an opportunity to create a new generation of children who not only know how to study independently but also cook, clean and be resilient.
5. Social distancing doesn’t mean being cut off from everything
There are lots of things you can do at home and still stay connected to the outside world. Many companies are offering interesting online activities for free. For example, you can watch Cirque de Soleil performances online or ‘go to the theatre’ with an Andrew Lloyd Webber musical.
Set up a playdate for your child on Zoom or any other video call app. Facetime grandparents and other family members who may be feeling lonely themselves.
6. Be clear about work rules if you’re working from home
During this time, many parents may be working from home. It’s a good idea to set up the house/office rules beforehand. If you know you’re going to be on a Zoom call, let your child know in advance.
Even if you are already on a call, it’s okay to say you’re busy. Just be clear about the situation. You could say, ‘I’m talking to my workmates right now so I can’t talk. Can we talk after you finish those colouring pages?’ Remember to follow through after.
Red Apple is here for you
If you think your child is stressed about the coronavirus situation, let us know. We will do all we can to try and help them feel less anxious about it. At Red Apple, we are trying to keep things as normal as possible at both our centres. The educators and routines in all the rooms are largely the same except for a few more safety and hygiene precautions. We are teaching the kids about the coronavirus and how to stay safe by using kids-friendly books and resources. For more information on helping children cope with coronavirus stress, you can check out the WHO guidelines.