HELPING OUR KIDS COPE DURING SCHOOL CLOSURES DUE TO PANDEMIC:
According to the CDC, everyone reacts differently to stressful situations. Stress during infectious disease outbreak can include:
- Fear and worry about your own health and the health of your loved ones
- Changes in sleep or eating patterns
- Difficulty sleeping or concentrating
- Worsening of chronic health problems
- Increased use of alcohol, tobacco or other drugs
- It’s important we work to manage this stress. Children and teens react, in part, on what they see from the adults around them. When parents and caregivers deal with the COVID-19 calmly and confidently, they can provide the best support for their children. Parents can be more reassuring to others around them, especially children, if they are better prepared.
Learn more about helping children cope:
RESOURCES IN A TIME OF CRISIS
If you, your student, or a peer is experiencing more extensive or crisis-related concerns (such as severe depression, harm to others, self-harm, or suicidal ideation), please contact one of the following resources immediately:
Idaho Suicide Prevention Hotline | Call 1-800-273-8255
Department of Health and Welfare’s Children’s Mental Health 208-769-
North Idaho Crisis Services 208-947-5595 | FREE Service
Crisis Text Line | Text the word START to 741-741
National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-273-TALK
Drug and Poison Control: 1-800-222-1222
RESOURCES TO HELP NAVIGATE YOUR TIME AT HOME
While it is recommended to practice social distancing this can also lead to feeling or being bored, anxious and stressed. Here are a few resources to help navigate your time at home:
99 Coping Skills https://www.yourlifeyourvoice.org/Pages/tip-99-coping-skills.aspx
Importance of a Routine Through This Unique Time http://www.skilledatlife.com/18-reasons-why-a-daily-routine-is-so-important/
As we continue to move through these uncertain times, many of us are looking for ways to help one another. Here are strategies for parents and students:
Be Available to Talk
1. Kids have big questions, and it’s okay to answer them. Take cues from your kids and offer clear but concise answers in developmentally appropriate language. Keep the focus on what you are doing to prepare and prevention strategies that are within your control like proper handwashing and avoiding large crowds.
2. Limit News Exposure
Even when it seems like they’re not listening, kids pick up on what they hear on TV and radio. Newscasters’ tone of voice can be enough to set off alarm bells for kids, and unfamiliar words like pandemic and outbreak can be fear-inducing. Opt for watching or listening to news reports when kids are in bed or choose to read news articles if possible.
3. Stick to Routines and Boundaries
Kids thrive with routines and boundaries, and predictability can be very comforting in anxious times. When some things feel out of control, routines can give kids a sense of security. School-aged kids might be used to seeing a visual schedule in their classrooms, so try using one at all. Write your daily routine on a whiteboard or make a paper schedule together. And make sure you include fun activities in your daily routine! Play board games, play outside, or have silly dance parties.
4. Set & Track Daily Goals
Set small daily goals and track progress so kids can work toward something important to them! Make sure the goals are within their control. Set goals around how much they’ll read each day, how many free throws they’ll practice each day, or how many kind gestures they’ll show toward family members. Track progress on a goal chart so they can have a visual reminder of the progress they’re making!
5. Start or Continue Mindful Practices
Mindfulness is an amazing practice for people of all ages. If you don’t have a regular mindful practice already built in to your family time, try adding it to your routine. This can look like 5 minute morning or bedtime guided meditation (look for apps like Calm or Headspace) or simple mindful mandala coloring.
1. Practice Controlled Breathing
If your child is showing signs of worry, take a moment to practice controlled breathing. You can simply count breaths for them (inhale 1 2 3 4 5 hold 1 2 3 4 exhale 1 2 3 4 5 6 7) or use tools like a pinwheel or bubbles. Help them slow their breathing and really exhale all of the air to calm their bodies and minds.
2. Try Progressive Muscle Relaxation
Help your child release tension from their body with a progressive muscle relaxation. In this exercise, children gradually tense up their muscles and then release them. Find scripts for this on your favorite mindfulness app or on Youtube:
3. Use Grounding Strategies
Grounding strategies or techniques help kids reorient to the present moment when the worries are too big. These techniques help kids connect with their current environment in the here and now when their minds are imagining potential future scenarios.
4. Set a Timer
When it’s hard to let go of worries, set a 3- or 5-minute timer. During those 3 or 5 minutes, tell kids they’re allowed to think about the worry all they want! But when the timer goes off, it’s time to get up, change positions, move to a different room or environment, and think of something else.
5. Exercise Creativity
If you have a child who likes to draw or write, try a creative exercise. Have your child personify their worry by imagining what the worry might look like if it were a real person, creature or thing. Maybe it looks like a big dragon. Maybe it looks like a monster. Or maybe it looks like an annoying mosquito. Then, they can draw a picture or comic or write a story about themselves as a superhero who defeats the worry!
6. Use a Journal or Feelings Tracker
Give your kids a journal to write about feelings or use a feelings tracker daily. Sometimes worries are so big it feels like they define our whole day, but when we keep track of our feelings throughout the day with a visual tool, it’s easier to see that worries are a smaller part of a healthy balance of emotions.
1. Acknowledge the Worries
It’s completely okay to acknowledge our kids’ worries rather than ignoring them. Acknowledging worries won’t solidify them but it will help your child understand that worry is a protective feeling that alerts us to potential danger. We can help ourselves remember it’s just potential danger though, and use strategies to keep our worries in check.
2. Avoid Participating in Worry Rituals
If your child is demonstrating any type of worry or checking ritual (i.e. washing hands excessively), avoid participating or encouraging these rituals. This sends the message to kids that the rituals are necessary when they see the adult they’re looking to for support doing it too. Remind kids of the everyday strategies and routines you already have in place to prevent or protect against illness, like washing before eating or wiping down shopping carts with disinfectant wipes.
3. Avoid Excessive Reassurance
It’s natural to want to reassure our kids! We want them to feel safe and calm. Reassure when needed but avoid offering it too frequently as this can prevent kids from developing their own positive self talk. Practice things they can say to themselves when they’re feeling worried like, “I can control my breathing,” or “My family is taking care of me.”
4. Be Mindful of Your Own Worries
Again, it’s completely reasonable for everyone to have some level of worry. But kids do pick up on our feelings and notice our anxieties, and they will take cues from us. If you’re feeling anxious, practice your own mindful or calming activities, call a friend or loved one, practice self care, or reach out for help. Even if you’re stuck at home, your therapist may offer phone services or you can try an app like Better Help or Talkspace.