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You may feel stressed and anxious about COVID-19 — and so may your children. Try these strategies to talk with them and help them cope.
During any rapidly changing situation, loss of daily routine, isolation and uncertainty can lead to anxiety, fear, depression and loneliness. Information overload, rumors and misinformation can make you feel out of control and make it unclear what to do. When you feel this way, your kids may feel it too — and they often sense the way you're feeling. Talking to them about what's going on can be challenging.
Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) has become a source of daily conversation. As a caregiver, you may be wondering how to support your kids' developmental needs and understanding of the coronavirus. Honest and accurate discussion with your kids about COVID-19 can help them understand what's happening, relieve some of their fears, make them feel safe and help them begin to cope.
A good place to start is learning about COVID-19 from reputable sources, such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO). Get the facts about current federal and state recommendations and how to protect your family from infection. Then you'll be prepared to talk to your kids and provide them with the support they need during a difficult time.
If possible, choose a time when your kids are likely to want to talk, such as at dinner. Ask what they already know and what questions and concerns they have. Everyone reacts differently, but your kids' questions can guide your discussion.
Listen and answer their questions with facts in a way that they can understand. If you don't know the answer to a question, be honest. Let them know that there are a lot of rumors and false information and that you'll help them learn the facts. If it's appropriate for their age, you can show them how to search for the answer on a reliable website.
Frequently talk with your kids to see how they're coping and offer them regular updates as more is learned about COVID-19 and the precautions families should take. Encourage them to express their feelings, letting them know that it's ok to be upset. Also encourage them to come to you with any new questions. This builds trust.
Share simple facts about COVID-19 that are appropriate for your kids' understanding:
Be sure to discuss how your kids can stay safe:
The purpose of the Mayo Clinic Patient Education video below is to prepare children, as young as four, for a COVID-19 nasal swab test, to help ease some of their potential fear and anxiety. When children are prepared to take a medical test, they become more cooperative and compliant, which creates a positive coping experience for them.
Watch: Supporting your child during COVID-19 nasal swab test.
Here are some steps you can take to help your kids cope:
When people have COVID-19, or possibly have come in contact with others who have the coronavirus, they are being asked to remain in quarantine — to isolate themselves from others so that they do not spread the infection. This means you should stay in your house and not be in spaces or places with people other than your family.
If your child gets sick, remind him or her that you or another caregiver will keep a close watch at all times. Reassure your child that you will be in close contact with your doctor who can give instructions on care and recovery.
If a family member gets sick and needs to be isolated at home or in the hospital, explain why this person needs to be away from the family at this time. Provide opportunities for your kids to stay in contact with the loved one, whether through electronic devices or the telephone or by sending a note to brighten the day, for example.
Caring for yourself during this time is important. Pay attention to your feelings and rely on loved ones or talk to a mental health professional. Get enough sleep, eat a healthy diet and stay active. This will enable you to care for your kids and serve as a role model for how to cope.
This article is written by Mayo Clinic Staff. Find more health and medical information on mayoclinic.org.
Information in this post was accurate at the time of its posting. Due to the fluid nature of the COVID-19 pandemic, scientific understanding along with guidelines and recommendations may have changed since the original publication date.
Check the CDC website for additional updates on COVID-19. For more information and all your COVID-19 coverage, go to the Mayo Clinic News Network and mayoclinic.org.
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