Seven ways to support youth through the Coronavirus pandemic
1. Control Your Own Anxiety: Many of us are worried about the current situation and living with uncertainty isn’t easy. Yet, anxiety is “contagious.” Your kids will know that you are nervous even if you try to hide it.
Get the most credible information you can. Focus on fact-based, helpful information about the virus. Avoid endless social media streams, which can be filled with misinformation, and constant breaking news headlines, which can fuel your concerns.
2. Approach Your Kids and Ask What They Know: Most children will have heard about COVID-19, particularly school-age kids and adolescents. They may have read things online, seen something on TV, or heard friends or teachers talk about the illness. Others may have overheard you talking about it. There is a lot of misinformation out there, so don’t assume that they know specifics about the situation or that the information they have is correct. Ask open-ended questions. Once you know what information they have and what they’re concerned about, then you can help to fill in any necessary gaps.
3. Validate Their Feelings and Concerns: Kids may have all sorts of reactions to the COVID-19. Some may be realistic, while others exaggerated. Acknowledge their fears while reassuring them.
4. Be Available for Questions and Provide New Information: This outbreak is likely to last a long time, so one conversation won’t be enough. At first, your child’s emotional reactions will outweigh their thoughts and concerns. As the outbreak continues and your kids get new information, they will need to talk again. Let them know they can come to you at any time with questions or worries. It’s also a good idea to have regular check-ins, as they may not approach you with their fears. When you update your kids with new information, don’t assume that they fully understand everything you say. Ask them to explain things back to you in their own language. This is an excellent way to know if your kids understood what you meant.
5. Empower Them by Modeling Behavior: An important part of prevention is hand washing, coughing or sneezing into your sleeves, wiping your nose with tissue then discarding it, trying to keep your hands away from your face, not shaking hands or making physical contact with others, and wiping surfaces with a material that is at least 60% alcohol. Reinforce that they are not only taking care of themselves but also helping to prevent the spread of germs to others.
6. Provide Reassurance: Your kids may worry about how you’re going to get through this. Remind them of other situations in which they felt helpless and scared. Remind them that you have been through challenging times before, and though everyone was distressed, everyone also worked together and got through it. Reliving these kinds of narrative helps the whole family to build resilience and hope.
7. Don’t Blame Others: In stressful times, when we feel helpless, there’s a tendency to blame someone or become more fearful, even when there is no evidence to support these reactions. The last thing we want our kids to do when frightening events happen is to cast blame on others, either intentionally or without meaning to.