Now more than ever, our children are looking to us for guidance and support in day-to-day life. It is up to us to set an example for our children during the COVID-19 (Coronavirus) pandemic crisis. Sometimes, that's easier said than done. We might be struggling with our own feelings of overwhelm, worry, and fear.
Here are some ways we can manage during a crisis:
- Parents, you need to first take care of yourselves. If you are stressed out, it is difficult to support and reassure your child. Be aware of, and deal with your feelings. Prioritize time to do things that are good for you, such as going for a walk, reading, listening to music, meditation, talking to a friend, or engaging in an enjoyable activity.
- Use this as an opportunity to reinforce family bonds. Do family activities such as working on a project together, making a meal, organizing a room, or playing nontechnology games.
- You want to stay informed, but limit exposure to the news. You do not want to be in denial, nor do you want to obsess.
- As much as possible, maintain personal connections by phone or safe social contact (FaceTime, Zoom, other platforms).
- Have a routine for the day, but not a rigid schedule. Make sure the routine is balanced between work, play, family time, and downtime.
- Children will process the crisis differently, depending on age and temperament. Some children are more reactive to stress and change, others are more adaptable. In general:
- ages 2 to 6 are more concrete, and will be focused on immediate situations
- ages 7 to 12 think more abstractly, and will be exposed to more information
- teens can take others’ perspectives, and are independent information seekers
- For all children, start out by asking them what they know, and what thoughts or feeling they might have about it. Validate and empathize with any feelings they may have. Correct any misinformation, and give them truthful statements at a level they can understand. Younger children should be given simplified information and reassurance. Encourage discussion with older children, with an emphasis on your family’s values. Have follow-up discussions to check for understanding and explore additional issues.
- Empower children by talking to them about what they can do to be healthy (wash hands, eat well, get enough sleep); focus on staying healthy, not the virus.
We're all in this together. Be kind to and patient with yourself. Be kind to and patient with others.
About the Author
Dr. Steven Tobias is the Director of the Center for Child & Family Development in Morristown, NJ, and the School Psychologist for Far Hills Country Day School. Dr. Tobias hosts parenting workshops and facilitates discussion groups for the Far Hills Country Day School parent community. He has over 25 years of experience working with children, parents, families, and schools.
Dr. Tobias provides treatment for a range of emotional, social, and behavioral problems:
Difficulty with emotional regulation, such as anxiety, depression, and anger
Behavioral difficulties including oppositional behavior and attention deficits
Difficulty establishing peer relationships and social skills
Family conflict and parenting
Eating and toileting resistance related to anxiety
Dr. Tobias has coauthored several books, including Emotionally Intelligent Parenting, Raising an Emotionally Intelligent Teenager, and Social Problem Solving: Interventions in the Schools. He is often a contributor to the radio station NJ 101.5 and has given lectures throughout the country on topics related to children’s emotional development and parenting.