The novel coronavirus may not have sickened as many kids as adults, but the crisis unquestionably is affecting children and teens.
Social distancing means they’re isolated from friends. School closures disrupted trusted routines. Kids in 8th and 12th grades can’t look forward to long-awaited graduation ceremonies. Even young children sense adults’ anxiety over the crisis.
Common signs of children struggling to cope include:
• If they want to stay in their room more than usual
• If they seem sullen or aren’t talking as much
• If they don’t enjoy favorite activities as much as usual
Helping them begins with talking, says pediatrician Dr. Chris Funes of Our Lady of the Lake Children’s Health. “There’s no replacement for a one-on-one conversation with your child.”
Ask how they’re feeling, and re-assure them this is a temporary situation and that things eventually will return to normal. If that doesn’t help, parents can schedule a video visit with their pediatrician who can help address problems, or refer them to a behavioral health specialist who can.
These five tips will help children adjust to the new normal, Dr. Funes suggests.
Establish a routine.
Routines help kids feel a sense of normalcy, starting with waking up and going to bed at set times. “Don’t just let your kids get up when they wake up, set a start time to start the day,” Dr. Funes says.
School work can be scheduled in short increments during the day broken up by playtime, lunch and other activities. “Kids need something to look forward to.”
Set aside time for physical activity.
Staying active is essential for children to feel and stay healthy. Schedule ample time for kids to be active and play; family activities are best.
Although kids may not be interested in exercising for its own sake, you can use FaceTime or Zoom to let them exercise with friends so it becomes something they look forward to.
Help kids connect with friends and family.
Speaking of video technology, it enables kids to keep in touch with their friends, which is an important part of their school experience. Even writing letters to grandparents, especially those living in a nursing home, can create memories while lifting spirits.
Kids are spending much more time at home than usual. Parents who are busy working from home need to make sure kids have adequate supervision at home. Unsupervised kids may spend too much screen time “not coming up for air,” or getting injured outside.
Embrace the positives.
The new “normal” has not come without its small gifts. “In our house we’ve never watched so many family movies, taken so many family bike rides,” Dr. Funes says.
Keeping a positive attitude goes a long way to helping your children feel safe.
“Families who have established good routines say this is kind of cool, it’s a nice change of pace,” Dr. Funes says. “The ones who aren’t establishing routines are pulling their hair out.”