Updated: Aug 29
It is not always easy to recognise when children are feeling anxious as they react differently to stressful situations. Short-term behavioural changes such as excessive crying, irritation, acting out, unhealthy eating or sleeping habits, as well as difficulty with attention and concentration can be indicators.
The following 9 tips may help you to support your children and look after their mental health during this uncertain time.
1. Spend quality time together – Children need love and attention during difficult and uncertain times. It is important that you set time aside to spend with each of your children as this will make them feel loved, secure and safe.
2. Talk about it – Most children will already have ideas and thoughts about the Coronavirus outbreak. It is therefore important not to avoid talking about COVID-19 with your children. Avoiding the topic may make them feel more unsure and anxious about what is going on. Take time to talk to your children, answer their questions and share facts in a way they will understand. Don’t forget to reassure your child that they are safe and that although they might catch the virus, it is unlikely to make them feel very unwell. Let them know that it is okay to feel upset.
3. Limit media exposure – Try to limit your family’s exposure to news coverage and social media. There is a large amount of information about Coronavirus in the media. It is therefore very likely that your children are seeing and hearing this through the radio, TV and social media platforms. Children may misinterpret what they hear and can become frightened about something they do not understand. Seeing graphic images or reading about the increasing number of cases can also be upsetting.
4. Get structured – You may feel that your family’s daily work, home and school routines have been lost due to the outbreak. This may be particularly difficult for your children as they need routines more than ever during uncertain and unpredictable times. Try to keep up with regular routines as much as possible. If schools are closed, make a schedule for you and your children that has time for structured learning activities as well as fun activities. This may help your children feel more secure and better behaved.
5. Ensure proper hygiene – Help your children to focus on what they can do to stay safe and healthy. For example, remind your children about hand hygiene. Teach them how to wash their hands properly and remind them to do this before they eat. Giving your children practical things to do may help them feel empowered rather than helpless.
6. Be a role model – Children look up to their parents as a guide about how to react to new situations. If you practise keeping safe distances and hygiene yourself and treat others with compassion, especially those who are vulnerable, your children will learn from you. It is also very important to stay calm. Young children are sensitive to stress and anxiety in adults. Managing your own anxiety and emotions will help you to keep your children calm.
7. Stay active – Children may feel disappointed that their regular sports activities are cancelled. It is therefore essential that you find other ways to keep your children active such as spending time in the backyard or going for a family walk, run or bike ride. Exercise releases endorphins, which are the feel-good chemicals that act on the brain as a natural mood enhancer. Studies have shown that endorphins improve children’s mental focus and cognitive skills. Exercise can also help to calm your children down and stabilise their mood swings, thus making good behaviour more likely.
8. Establish good self-care – Keeping well through good nutrition and proper rest are really important ways to support your children and boost their coping skills and immune systems.
9. Stay positive – Stay positive when discussing Coronavirus with your children. The media has a strong focus on worrying and negative aspects that may overwhelm your children. Remind them that there are doctors and scientists all over the world that are working really hard to find out how to cure and stop the virus. Let them know that most people are recovering from the virus and that even though it might be hard for a while, things will eventually go back to normal.