By Kathryn Wright, M.D., F.A.A.P.
If you have children who are scared and confused about the coronavirus (or COVID-19) pandemic, there are ways you can help them manage anxiety. There’s really no way to avoid it because kids are hearing about the coronavirus everywhere. You want to dispel myths and provide reassurance. Here are some tips to consider:
Set their minds at ease.
Let your kids talk about their worries and fears and then reassure them you are doing everything you can to protect them. If their school is closed, let them know it’s only a precautionary measure to keep them safe. Emphasize that not everyone will get the coronavirus and everything is being done to make sure as few people as possible get sick.
Give children information.
Keep it simple and use words appropriate for their age that they’ll understand. Stick to facts and focus on the positive. Give them the opportunity to ask questions or voice fears. It’s OK to let them know you don’t have all the answers.
Get their minds off it.
Instead of sitting in front of the TV or computer checking the news in front of your kids, join them in playing video games or board games, camping in the backyard, or just having a good time. Fun and laughter are excellent stress relievers for them and you. For most kids, there’s no reason for them to see or hear the news, so limit or eliminate their exposure to it and to social media.
Make protection fun.
Teach kids to sing a song while washing their hands and reward them for taking good care of themselves.
Give reminders and practice healthy habits.
Remind them to stay away from people who are coughing, sneezing, or otherwise sick. Teach and remind them to cough or sneeze into their elbow or a tissue and then throw the tissue into the trash.
Try to maintain normal routines.
Sticking with a regular schedule can be reassuring. Encourage children to keep up with schoolwork. Enforce regular bedtimes. Eat meals together as a family whenever possible. Give your kids lots of affection.
Dr. Kathryn Wright is a board-certified pediatrician at Kelsey-Seybold’s Kingwood Clinic. Child obesity, newborn care, and ADHD are among her top clinical interests. Being around kids makes every day at work fun for her.