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Supporting Your Kids During the COVID-19 Pandemic

A guide to engaging with your children in healthy, meaningful, and anxiety reducing ways during the COVID-19 situation.

A Child PaintingFor many of us, nothing like COVID-19 has happened in our lifetimes. Times feel uncertain, strange, and unexpected. News reports and social media often confuse and muddle our understanding of the situation. We are not sure if we are overreacting or underreacting. Kids are out of school, some are celebrating the time off, and others are unnerved and anxious about the change in routine. As a child and adolescent therapist, I wanted to share some tips of how to reduce your child’s anxiety during this time and suggestions on how to engage with them in meaningful ways. While this is a stressful and difficult situation, we can make the most of the extra time spent at home and grow the most important relationships of our lives, the ones with our families and children.

Tips to Reduce Anxiety:

  • Maintain structure and routine in your day. Wake up at a “reasonable” hour, have a plan for the day, eat meals at regular intervals, etc. Kids benefit from routine and structure, and knowing what to expect helps give a sense of control over their environments.
  • Incorporate physical activity. Go for a walk, find a kid friendly work out video on YouTube, stretch, do yoga, play an active version of Simon Says, be creative and get their bodies moving.
  • Model healthy coping and regulation. Let your kids know how you are feeling, and let them know how you are handling it. For example, if you are feeling frustrated tell them! Invite them to take deep breaths with you, make a healthy snack, or take a short brain break together. “I’m feeling frustrated, I’m going to take some deep breaths, want to do it with me?”
  • Limit access to social media and news outlets. Make sure any information you share is developmentally appropriate. Limit information from sources that are susceptible to exaggeration or inaccuracies. Catch up on information privately so you can answer their questions while limiting their exposure to unfiltered and unverified information.

Making the Most of the Moment:

  • Phone and tech free times: Pull out the old-fashioned board games you have been hanging onto since you were a kid, play 20 questions, iSpy, etc.
  • Teach new skills: As most of us have a bit less going on at the moment we can take this opportunity to slow down. Try including your children in daily activities. Invite them to cook with you, wash dishes, do the laundry, rearrange their bedroom, bake cookies, etc. Do this together, as a team!
  • Follow their lead: Does your child want to color? Pull up a chair and color with them. Is your kid the owner of an amazing imaginary restaurant? Be their best customer. When your kiddo is comfortable and you are present, you are setting up the opportunity for communication and connection. Even if they do not say much, you can learn a lot from how a child plays and what themes they are drawn to.
  • Be curious: Watch the TV show your teen is obsessed with, listen to music by their favorite artist, read that book they cannot stop talking about, connect with them at their level.
  • Ask questions: Ask any questions to start. Ask silly questions, serious questions, what if questions, imagination questions, anything to get them talking. Be sure the questions are open ended so they can’t just give you one-word answers.

We hope you find this to be a helpful resource. Times like this can be particularly challenging and we want to support you as you navigate this exceptionally unusual situation with your children.

Jessie Davis, LCSW-C, is a therapist with the Brook Lane Thrive Program in Frederick.