Five Minutes to Thrive: Kids Coping with COVID-19
By Dr. Ashley Kilgore, 5th OMRS Mental Health Clinic
/ Published April 22, 2020
MINOT AIR FORCE BASE, N.D. --
Parents and caregivers, this is for you. If you’re not a parent or caregiver, I’d invite you to think about those who are because they are responsible for the well-being of the tiny humans who will be our future leaders. COVID-19 has created many challenges for parents and caregivers who are home with children full-time while trying to manage telework, homeschooling, parenting, and perhaps their own academic or extracurricular pursuits. Social media is lit up presently, with the impact of more time with kids at home (some good, some bad, and some funny).
How do you explain that there is a new flu virus, aggressively attacking the world? Or that you can’t play tag with friends or play on playground equipment? How do you explain why mom/dad wear a mask and gloves in the grocery store?
You tell them the truth. You say “there is a new flu/cold, making people very sick. That’s why we’re taking steps to keep us safe and not going out.” Here are a few more things to consider in answering the kiddos’ questions and not stoking their anxieties:
- It’s normal to worry. COVID-19 is new and it’s scary for all ages, but children should not be put in the position of handling their parent’s worries. It is the parent/caregiver’s job to help the child feel safe. Signs of worry in children are opportunities for parents and caregivers to teach.
- Games and art. Especially for younger kids, word expression is difficult. While you’re both a parent and teacher, encourage your children to draw a picture about their experience with ‘Crayola virus’. Ask them to invent a coronavirus game. These are great ways to process and normalize emotions.
- Be alert for behavior changes. You know your ‘normal’ child best, so be on the lookout for changes like: distressed looks, increased clinginess or detached behavior, and unexplained headaches/stomach aches. These may be clues the child needs you to engage and talk about what they’re thinking about.
- Limit news reports. Little ears listen to everything. Older kids may want to discuss what they hear. However for younger ages, parents should monitor and filter as necessary. You can also emphasize that people are beating COVID-19 and treatments are coming
It’s said frequently lately, we’re all in this together. It’s true. Parents, reach out to other parents for support. And if you need help or you’re having a tough time “coping with COVID,” we have your back.
For questions, contact Dr. Ashley Kilgore (email@example.com) or the Minot Mental Health Clinic at 701-723-5527