Guiding your kids through the chaos of a pandemic was likely the last thing on your mind a year ago. Helping children cope with changes resulting from the COVID-19 crisis (as you grapple with those same changes) can be an extremely daunting and difficult task. There’s incredible stress in juggling jobs, parenting, and family health needs. It’s particularly hard on children with special needs. In this post, we’ll share coping tips on how to ease children’s anxiety during these unprecedented times.
It’s OK to feel angry about missing Grandma’s cuddles. It’s OK to be disappointed about not being with friends. Most of all: it’s OK to feel scared.
UNICEF emphasizes the importance of acknowledging children’s concerns. Experts advise asking questions and simply listening. Although talking freely is OK, parents should follow their child’s lead by finding out first what they know about COVID-19. If they’re younger, raising the issue might be unnecessary. Just teach and model good hygiene practices.
Clarify Misinformation and Reinforce Health Behaviors
Remind kids that if someone is coughing or sneezing, it doesn’t mean they have COVID-19. Teach and model the best ways to protect themselves and friends/family with social distancing, masks, and hygiene practices.
Tune-In to Different Age-Groups
There’s no such thing as a “typical” 4-year-old, or 14-year-old. There are common characteristics, however, that parents can use as a springboard when communicating with their children.
Reactions of these young ones would mostly be non-verbal. Some reactive behaviors might be: bedwetting, increased tantrums, or speech difficulties. You can help your child by:
- Providing verbal/physical reassurance
- Planning calming, comforting activities
- Maintaining regular routines (such as bedtimes rituals, snack times, etc.)
Although major struggles include social isolation, school-aged kids may become competitive for parents’ attention. Some children exhibit irritability and aggressive behavior. You can help your child by:
- Arranging virtual “play dates” through Zoom or other internet communications.
- Encouraging expression through calm play and conversation.
- Engaging in educational activities.
A difficult age at any time, but doubly so during a pandemic. Reactions can include ignoring health behaviors such as social distancing or avoiding/cutting school. You can help your child by:
- Discussing stigma/injustices that could be occurring.
- Encouraging routines that carry responsibility such as helping out with younger siblings.
- Supporting communication with friends through social media, FaceTime, etc.
Children with Special Needs
Challenges to manage symptoms of children with special needs is particularly daunting. Such concerns are not lost on healthcare professionals. For children with ADHD, abilities in staying organized and focused may be strained. Parents should refrain from increasing medication doses outside of what is prescribed. Instead, experts advocate for telemedicine as well as flexibility for medication refills.
What all Kids Need
All kids share certain needs. Even moody teenagers need patience, tolerance, and reassurance. Age-appropriate limits and structure can be a calming influence. Pediatric physician Damon Korb of healthychildren.org emphasizes that: “No matter what the age of your child, take a moment each day to be truly present,…” Listening and taking time to play can result in strengthening of family bonds.
- It’s important to validate feelings
- Ways to ease children’s anxiety vary according to age
- Children with special needs may require different approaches
- Do your best to clarify misinformation and instill structure
Infinite Therapy Solutions is committed to helping parents and children cope with this unbelievable time in human history. Our dedicated and highly-skilled team of therapists and behavior specialists continue to help manage symptoms of children with special needs so they can reach their fullest potential. Rest assured that we are taking every precaution to keep you and your family safe. For more information on this topic, click here.