Your response, and that of other adults around your child, influences how your child can cope. Be aware of your own responses and emotional needs so that you can look after your child. Here are some strategies to help children and teens.
Be calm yourself
Children and teens look to the important adults around them to see how worried they should be. Although this can be very difficult, it's important to have and show a sense of calm.
Control access to the media and limit conversations about COVID-19
Mixed messages and constantly hearing about the risks of COVID-19 can increase anxiety and worry. It is important to control how much access your child has to the media. Your child's age will also affect how they can interpret the material that they see and hear.
When there is constant talk about something, you focus on it more and then think and worry about it more. This increases your belief that you are more at risk. This belief is unlikely to match the actual risk.
Make sure that the information you access is coming from official sources such as the Ministry of Health(external link) and the Unite against Covid website(external link).
Be honest, talk and be prepared to answer questions
Be honest. Children's imagination and the fear of the unknown can be more overwhelming for children than the reality. Don't focus on the risk aspects of the situation.
Ask your child or teen what they think and know. Start talking about the facts about COVID-19. Children ask questions to help them to make sense of the situation. Make sure you have read about the facts around COVID-19. Explain these in a simple way that is appropriate for your child's age, understanding and situation. Let them know that you are available if they have any questions or want to talk more.
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Listen and acknowledge how your child is feeling
Acknowledge your child’s feelings. Let them know that it is common to feel this way and that others are also having similar feelings. Reassure your child that they are loved, cared for and safe (in whatever realistic or truthful way they are).
Stick to routines and family systems
Stick to routines, including meal times and bedtimes as much as possible as this gives a sense of safety and security. Make sure there are family-based activities – not having plans for the day can increase worry and anxiety. Family-based activities will make children and teens feel like they are part of a unit and provide a sense of connectedness or togetherness.
Encourage your child to take action. This can create a sense of control and help if your child is experiencing a sense of helplessness. This might be drawing pictures about how:
- your body fights infection
- eating healthy food is important
- washing hands is essential.
You could ask your kids to teach you how they have learned to wash their hands at school (for example, singing happy birthday) or learn a fun new way together.
Look after yourself
As an adult, it is very important that you look after yourself as well. This can be difficult because your focus is often on the more vulnerable around you. You need to be in the best position possible so you can look after your child - it is about strengthening yourself so you can be strong for your child. Talk to other adults about your feelings and what is going on. Access support systems available to you and try to keep to as many routines as possible.