Mind & Body
7 Ways to Help Your Kids Reduce Stress During the COVID-19 Crisis
4/1/2020 1:00:00 PM
Helping Kids with Stess

In this unpredictable global pandemic world, it’s hard to tell how much children understand or how they will react to what they do understand. Some handle it well while others have a difficult time processing the information and experience more anxiety. How can parents help their children deal with the stress during these difficult and uncertain times?

Keri Forbess-McCorquodale, MS, CEAP, LPC-S, LMFT, president of Solutions Counseling and EAP says children and teens react, in part, to what they see from the adults around them. "When parents and caregivers deal with the COVID-19 calmly and confidently, they can provide the best support for their children.”

She says it’s important to understand that not all children and teens respond to stress in the same way. Some common changes to watch for include:

  • Excessive crying or irritation in younger children
  • Returning to behaviors they have outgrown (for example, toileting accidents or bedwetting)
  • Excessive worry or sadness
  • Unhealthy eating or sleeping habits
  • Irritability and "acting out” behaviors in teens
  • Poor school performance or avoiding schoolwork
  • Difficulty with attention and concentration
  • Avoidance of activities enjoyed in the past
  • Unexplained headaches or body pain
  • Use of alcohol, tobacco, or other drugs

Parents can be more reassuring to others around them, especially children, if they are better prepared, says Forbess-McCorquodale. She offers the following suggestions from Dr. Alok Trivedi, an expert in human behavior and stress, and founder of the Aligned Performance Institute:  

Learn your facts before you talk to the kids 

Most adults and kids experience only mild flu symptoms if they contract the virus. Before you speak to your children about what’s going on, make sure you understand what’s happening and that you are getting your information from reliable sources. There is a lot of scary misinformation currently circulating, so parents, make sure you get the facts before communicating with your kids. 

Keep a calm tone:

Sometimes it’s not the words you say, but how you say them that determines how a child will to react. If you instill chaos and panic in the tone of your voice, your child is more likely to become scared. However, if you say your words in a calm manner, even if what you say isn’t what they want to hear, they are more likely to remain relaxed.

Manage your own stress levels. 

Kids will read their parent’s stress levels and respond accordingly. If you need a moment to unwind, it’s okay to excuse yourself, take a few minutes to regroup and get yourself together before interacting again with the kids. After your own stress levels are in check, focus on making sure your children are handling it well, too. Signs that the stress might be too much for them: changes in appetite, unable to sleep, acting fearful or anxious, wanting to be left alone, and a lack of excitement for things they usually enjoy. 

Give kids projects related to what they love to do: 

With kids home from school now, they’re going to need things to do. Kids respond better when they get involved with something they truly love. Give them projects around these activities. Most kids like YouTube, so encourage them to use this online platform to learn as much as they can about their interests. Not only are you taking their mind off the coronavirus, you’re helping them become more involved in what they are already interested in.   

Be supportive: 

Stress is real. Even if you don’t understand it, know that for your kids it can be very serious. Always be supportive and help them work through what’s bothering them as best you can. Never say things like, "just get over it” or "you’re overreacting.” If your child’s worry becomes more serious and doesn’t subside, they may need professional help. 

Reduce stress by being healthy: 

The best way to reduce stress is to take appropriate measures to reduce the spread of the coronavirus. Don’t just encourage your children to wash their hands and not touch their face, but let them know that by doing so, they are minimizing their chance of coming down with the virus. Healthy behaviors will lead to stronger mental health and well-being. 

Give your kids something to look forward to: 

Many families are stressed right now due to the disruption of everyday life. Kids do really well and feel good when they have something to look forward to. Let them help plan something you’ll all love to do together after the crisis is over.  

For more information on Solutions’ services, and other strategies for coping with stress from the COVID-19 circumstances, visit www.solutions-eap.org. 

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Categories: Health  |  Stress

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