Emotional Check-ins with Our Children around COVID-19
For the month of April, Alma is teaming up with some of our therapist friends to bring our parenting tips and mental health education to Facebook while our schools are closed.
Claudia Rios-Gastelum of Well-Mamas Counseling is taking over Monday's for us and is focusing on ways we can engage with our children during this new season. Today she is focusing on "Emotional Check-Ins with Our Children around COVID-19."
“Can I go play with my friends, already?” “Are we there yet?” “Are you done already?” “ When can I go back to school?” These are examples of how impatient children can be. Most parents have heard these types of comments several times before breakfast is served. Kids are inpatient by nature, but it is the task of a parent to help them learn to cope with stressful times.
However, parents might notice more signs of impatience or stress in their children during this pandemic. They may notice signs of acting out, “attitude” or irritability as a result of not knowing what to expect from all of the rapid changes that have occurred during the last month. One of the toughest parts of managing the current Coronavirus situation is that we do not have a specific timeline of when we will return to “normal.” This can be very frustrating for both parent and child; however, your child’s impatience around sheltering in place might be their way of coping with the situation, even if their initial impulse isn’t a helpful way of managing it.
Here are some tips to help you manage your child’s emotions during this time:
1) Set a time to check in with them about how they are feeling. Listen with intent. Remove distractions and slow down before wanting to discipline or offer advice. Most of the time, kids just want to be heard.
“How is your body feeling when you can’t go outside to play with your friends?” “Do you have any questions about all the changes that have happened in our life?”
2) Validate their feelings. Validate the content of what your child is saying. Validation is about letting the other know that what they are saying makes sense from their point of view.
“I know you miss your friends- they are really important to you.” “You are right, it can be boring to not be able to go outside and play like you were used to.”
3) Be honest with your child but do not volunteer too much information. They do not need to know all the scary details of what is happening in the world because this can be overwhelming. However, they are aware that there have been a lot of changes and may naturally be worried.
“I don’t know when school will start because there are still cases of people getting sick but our family is doing ____ to stay healthy.” “Dad has to start a new job but we have resources to help us get through this time.”
4) Ask for their input or thoughts on how they can feel empowered over the situation. Help them identify the things that they actually have control over but also provide reassurance that the whole family is contributing to staying safe.
“I hear you say that you miss your friends. What do you think would help you feel better?” “We’ve been washing our hands a lot and staying home, what else can help you feel good about staying healthy?”
5) Stick to a routine. Structured days will help kids know what to expect out of their day. If your child is used to doing the same home activity (chores, reading time, etc) keep it up.
6) You don’t have to have all the answers on your own. If you need resources around explaining coronavirus to your children, check out the following websites: *https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html
Written by Claudia Rios-Gastelum, M.A. Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (CA #97284).