The last few weeks for many families have been spent making sure basic needs are acquired, accepting the need to change most plans for an uncertain amount of time, and overall just wrapping minds around our current status. There is a range of feelings regarding school being canceled, parents losing jobs, and the possible illness of family members and friends which make for stressful topics to address with any child who inevitably feels the change in tone from all. These are not topics to avoid though but to address with age appropriate explanation and support. Below are some tips on supporting your child through their uncertainties while coping with your own:
1. Do not fear talking with your child in an age appropriate manner about Covid-19 and some of the fear around the virus.
By now there are many resources available to aid in doing this. Children are often more perceptive to the feelings and tone of their surroundings than we realize. Ignoring the issue does not eliminate the feelings it creates. Here are some resources to help in doing this:
- Talking to your Child and Adolescent about Covid-19
- Explaining Covid-19 to your Child who struggles with Anxiety
2. Make sure as a parent you are participating in self-care and taking steps to manage your own stress.
Practice the saying “Be a thermostat, not a thermometer” from the Child Parent Relationship Therapy Manual written by Sue Bratton, Gary Landreth, Theresa Kellam, & Sandra Blackard. We want to understand and be with our child during hard times but not let their fear and anxiety during a situation raise ours and vice versa.
- If parents and kids need a calm down, why not enjoy a MeditOcean – Monterey Bay Aquarium’s 11 minute guided meditation with Jellyfish. Watch it here: https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=495169991155930.
3. Practice using Validation when speaking with your child about their fears.
Validation is not confirmation, yet a way to communicate understanding to your child and further connection. Examples of this may look like, “I could see how you would feel that way.” “I understand how that is hard to think about.” According to Miller, Glinski, Woodberry, Mitchell, and Indik (2002), there are six levels of validation: (https://www.goodtherapy.org/Validation )
- Listen – ex:“I hear you”
- Reflection – ex: “ I hear you saying you are really worried about our safety right now”
- Empathize – ex: “I understand how you may feel that way with all the changes happening right now.”
- Acknowledge Reasons for Behavior – ex: “I understand why it has been hard for you to sleep without answers to your questions.”
- Acknowledge Courage- ex: “It takes allot of courage for you to continue trusting that we will all get through this hard time.”
4. Use this time to create a new schedule that fits your family’s needs.
Children tend to function best, especially in times of uncertainty, with a schedule of things they know they can count on. Mealtimes outlined, learning time, reading time, quiet time and outside time (weather allowing) scheduled for their new routine. Let them know they can count on you to make sure certain these scheduled events happen daily.
5. Take advantage of the many resources out there to keep the environment fun and light hearted.
These are all resources one may not have been able to take advantage of previously. Below are a few gathered from Georgia HOPE’s Wellness Coordinator, Jana Clift:
- Internet of Elephants developed a new FREE Augmented Reality game called Wildeverse. The game was initially intended for outdoor play, but developers have made it suitable for indoor play, as well. Wildeverse was just released in the US and UK and our Zoo Atlanta is the US partner. Available for download in the App Store or on Google Play. Start walking through a life-sized jungle from your own home!
- Zoo Atlanta coloring pages and origami animals (updated weekly)
- Zoo Atlanta’s “Backyard Bingo” can be played in the yard or from a window.
- J.K. Rowling announced a free, online website Harry Potter At Home. It has craft videos, articles, quizzes, puzzles, and more.
- If you’re looking for someone ELSE to read a book to the kiddos for a bit, go to https://www.storylineonline.net/ to find 47 children’s books read by celebrities. Or you can drop #OperationStorytime into the YouTube app and you’ll find books being read by authors, Storytime with Will channel, Storytime with Rachel, KidLit TV, etc.
- A graphic designer in Canada, Natalie Long, created a COVID-19 time capsule for kids and families. It’s a FREE 11 page printout to document this moment in history.
- The Kennedy Center hosts Lunch Doodles with Mo Willems here:
In conclusion, know that we at Georgia HOPE are still here to offer the extra support for parents, children and families that may be needed during this atypical time!! Please do not hesitate to reach out and let us know how we can walk beside you as you navigate your New Temporary Normal. #HOPEisHere
Written by: Jennifer Cooper MS, LPC, RPT, NCC