The highest priority for everyone during this difficult time is keeping their family as safe as possible by following the CDC guidelines, wearing protective gear, and washing their hands and surfaces. However, beyond your family’s physical health, it’s also vital to do everything you can to protect your mental health as well.
For children, this can be even more challenging, as children are less predictable. They don’t know their own feelings like adults do, and it’s much harder for someone young to handle the uncertainty and fear that comes with something like this pandemic. In order to help, we wanted to share our tips on caring for the emotional needs of children during the coronavirus.
Give What You Get
We all know the phrase, but when it comes to children, that’s not always the case. Children can react poorly even if you are giving all you’ve got. However, what we recommend is not just giving time and attention, but teaching them how to deal with their emotions by showing rather than just explaining.
Children are extremely receptive to body language. Even if you’ve been trying to keep your voice and tone calm, they can pick up plenty of emotions just by reading your actions. You don’t need to walk around the house on pins and needles, but it helps to be aware.
Communicate Often and Effectively
As we mentioned in another previous blog post about how to discuss COVID-19 and the coronavirus with your children, it’s vital you communicate with them about what’s going on. Depending on their age and maturity level, they need to know what’s happening, and in at least some degree of detail. It’s up to you to be discerning about how much of that detail they can handle.
But keeping them in the dark only leads to panic. As everyone knows, children have incredible imaginations, and if they don’t have assurance from you as to what’s going on, those imaginations will go wild. Make sure to be calm, collected, but also honest, as you navigate these discussions.
When you and your children spend time together, it’s tempting to just throw on whatever is on the TV so they will relax a little bit. While that’s okay from time to time, it’s also good to try and find activities that give you and the kids both stimulation, relaxation, and connection. You could plant a garden together in the backyard, or make illustrations using sidewalk chalk.
Regardless of what you choose, doing activities that are not school-related and do not involve screens is great for the mental health of children. Humans are social creatures, and without society at its fullest functioning, children need other outlets to express and learn about themselves.
Create Room for Emotions
Along with being honest and trying to be aware of your body language, you should also do what you can to allow your children, your partner, and yourself to feel emotions in healthy, responsible ways. Bottling things in is never a good idea, and not allowing space for your children to feel forces them to close up, which can lead to an eruption.
We realize “creating room for emotions” is no small task. For some children, it’s nearly impossible. However, there are a few ways to start. You could have a weekly family time where you ask certain questions, like how everyone is doing, or even have everyone choose how they’re feeling between red, yellow, and green. You could also institute a “no phones” policy at the dinner table, and then proceed to engage in intentional, thoughtful conversation by asking real questions beyond just “How was your day?”
More Patience Than Ever
As you likely already know at this point, being quarantined with your children means you need more patience than ever before. Not only because you’re all cooped up in your home, but also because your children may be acting out in ways they haven’t before, or in ways that don’t correspond to how they seem to be feeling.
This is likely because they have no idea what they’re feeling. Especially if your children are young, these emotions are entirely new to them. There’s a chance they’re new to you, too, which means your patience will have to extend not only to them but to yourself, as you figure out the best way to manage the whole family’s feelings.
We’re Here For You
Though some places are easing restrictions, the pandemic and its effects will likely still be around for quite some time. We hope our blog brings you information that helps you and your family stay safe and healthy. For questions about our learning centers and how we’re reacting to this time, submit a contact form and we will be happy to answer any questions!