MINDING CHILDREN AND TEENAGERS IN THE MIDST OF COVID-19

8 April 2020 No Comments by The Northern Standard

Families throughout the country are adapting to changes in daily life caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Parents and other caregivers are faced with helping their families adjust to the new normal. This includes trying to keep children and young people occupied, feeling safe, and attempting to keep up with schoolwork as best as possible. None of this easy, but it helps to stay focused on what is possible in order to reinforce a sense of control and to reassure children that they are okay, and that the situation will get better.

STAY CALM AND BE INFORMED
Children and teenagers take their lead from adults in terms of how they respond to challenging events.  Because of this it is vital that we are not overly worried or anxious in their presence.  We do however need to acknowledge some level of concern, so that children and teenagers can also take the necessary actions to reduce the spread of COVID-19.
 
Children and teenagers are likely to go through the same emotional reactions to COVID-19 as adults, although they may show this in different ways. They may be either more withdrawn, more irritable or more challenging at home than usual. We need to let them know that feeling worried, anxious or stressed is a normal reaction to this situation while also helping them to find ways to better ways to deal what is happening.

We need to stay up-to-date on the facts.  Go to www.HSE.ie or www.HPSC.ie for the most up to date factual information.  We can then be the best source of information for children and young people and we can correct any misinformation or imaginings they may have. Parents and carers should monitor television, internet, and social media viewing—both for themselves and their children. Watching continual updates on COVID-19 may increase fear and anxiety.  There are many rumours and untruths about COVID-19 online and on social media, these may also be adding to our worries or worse, misinforming us on how to stay safe.

TAKE TIME TO TALK
Children and teenagers do not need to be exposed to a lot of news or concerning conversations. When children and teenagers are exposed to inappropriate information or information designed for adults, they can become confused and overwhelmed.  We need to take some time to talk with them to find out what they already know and to answer any concerns or questions they may have.
 
Be truthful and accurate but remember your children’s age. Give them factual information, but adjust the amount and detail depending on their age.  For  preschool children, it is good to provide brief, simple information that balances COVID-19 facts and how they can stay safe – ‘It’s a bug, like a bad cold and when we wash our hands it washes the bugs away’.  Primary school children may have more questions and need more information to help them to understand.

 They will need help to understand facts and why we are taking certain precautions such as social distancing – ‘The virus is more dangerous for older people and that’s why we can’t be close to or hug granny and granddad right now’.  We need to have more frank discussions with teenagers and provide honest, accurate, and factual information about the current status of COVID-19.   We might need to spend some time helping them to separate the facts from fears or rumours.

During these talks, it is important to really tune into what the child and teenager are feeling, listen to them and show them than we understand them.  Let children talk about their fears and acknowledge them – ‘I get the feeling that this is really scary for you?’  We should not dismiss their fears but alleviate them if we can – ‘The Government is doing all of this to stop the bugs’.  

Help children and teenagers to understand what they can do to stop the virus.  With younger children we can make hand-washing a game: ‘who can make the biggest bubbles?’ Encouraging use of tissues and ‘sleeve sneezes’ followed by hand washing will be an important habit for us to teach.  For teenagers, helping them to understand the need to physically distance from their friends will be important and supporting them to link up online or through social media will help overcome this challenge for them.  

CREATE, RELAX AND HAVE FUN  
We have now have time to do new fun activities with children and young people.  The internet is alive with daily challenges, such as scavenger hunts, quizzes and exercise challenges.  This might be a time to teach children and teenagers new skills such as cooking and baking or support them with creative activities such as art or make and do.  Try to have some outdoor time in the garden or in the street or local park to connect with nature, but taking heed of the 2km from home distance limit.  Focus on the positive, celebrate having more time to spend as a family and make it as fun as possible.

ADDITIONAL SUPPORTS
Parentline is a free, National, confidential helpline that offers parents support, information and guidance on all aspects of being a parent and on parenting.  www.parentline.ie

Jigsaw – mental health information and a Q&A service for young people, their parents and guardians, and those who work with young people.  Jigsaw also offer an online group chat service.  Visit www.jigsawonline.ie

Please also visit for further information on minding your wellbeing during the Coronavirus outbreak https://www2.hse.ie/wellbeing/mental-health/minding-your-mental-health-during-the-coronavirus-outbreak.html

Comments are closed.