How to Help our Children Deal with Pandemic-related Anxiety
April 17, 2020 | 12:00 AM
Almost overnight, the coronavirus pandemic has changed our lives. Our once-carefree days are now tinged with worry, anxiety, and fear. Worldwide lockdowns, unrelenting news, and status updates have our pulse rates up and our minds in over-drive. As adults, we feel the burden of the times but have we considered how our children feel amidst the COVID crisis? It’s not enough to merely fill their days with activities to take their mind off the situation. It is more important to make them understand and allay their fears so they will emerge from this experience without trauma.
HAVE THAT FAMILY MEETING. Ask your kids what they know about the coronavirus and how they feel about it. Create that space where they can pour their hearts out. Let them speak. Listen patiently to them. Ask them how they think they can handle the extraordinary circumstances brought about by the crisis. Explain terms they hear you or other adults speak about—lockdown, quarantine, PUI, PUM, etc. Demystify the terms. Answer their queries calmly and simply. An informative discussion can go a long way in allaying their worries. Explain health measures that each one has to commit to in order to keep the family safe. Model the proper way of washing their hands, sanitizing their surroundings (for older children), etc. Remind them that you have to watch out for each other. Process other matters such as use of common gadgets—TV, iPad, laptops or PCs so that no one has to fight over the use of these. If food rationing is a concern, explain why prudence is necessary without alarming them.
CREATE ACTIVITIES THAT ALLOW THEM TO PARTICIPATE IN POSITIVE ACTIONS. Let your kids know that we are all in this together and that we can help alleviate the situation by doing small acts of kindness or assistance. The project to write letters or cards of encouragement and gratitude for the front liners and patients is one such endeavor. They can also help pack little “thank you” loot bags for the people who pick-up our garbage, deliver our food, etc. For our older kids, you may ask them to write letters of appeal to our government officials to step up their efforts to help our citizens. One of the most meaningful activities to do with your children is family prayer time. Beyond religion or dogma, praying to a higher being can bring peace, calm and perspective to this crisis. Let your children make a list of the people they want to pray for. This way, we allow them to identify who and what matters to them. Truly, there are many little meaningful acts that can make them feel they are making positive contributions to our community, nation, and the world.
BE EXTRA SENSITIVE. There is always that child who feels or overthinks things more. One child may be more affected than his/her siblings. Be observant about changes in behavior, in habits. Look out for the red flags—extreme quiet, restlessness, anger, meltdowns, changes in appetite and sleep patterns. This child may need more hand-holding and personal time. Be patient. If the anxiety escalates to worrisome levels, seek professional help. The sooner this is addressed, the better your child can heal.
Parenting in times of crisis can be very challenging. Let us use this time to teach our children lessons on leadership, resilience, grit, simplicity, etc. We are presented with many teachable moments. Let our children see in us what we wish to see in them. We can all come out of this as winners!
About the Author
Ms. Marisyll Pengson is John Robert Powers International Curriculum Director. She is a results-oriented professional with a 35-year track record as a teacher, educational administrator, and personality development expert for both local and international audiences. Ms. Marisyll is a creative and strategic thinker strongly committed to helping students achieve their personal and professional goals and objectives. She is also a book author and resource speaker for radio, television, and print media on topics related to Personality and Professional Development.