Talking to kids about tough topics
By: Dr. Venkata Kolli
Coronavirus (COVID-19) is causing unprecedented life disruption worldwide. Public health measures aimed at flattening the curve of the pandemic have drastically changed the way kids are experiencing daily life, from school closings to social distancing and canceled activities and mainly being restricted to home.
Children see the adults in their life worrying about their families’ health and the financial implications imposed by the virus and may need reassurance that they and their loved ones are protected from harm.
Child experts suggest these tips when youngsters ask about COVID-19 and other tough topics:
Communicate your love and create a supportive space for the child to ask questions and express their concerns
Explain facts to the child in an age, language and developmentally-appropriate manner so that the child can comprehend the information. Use printable fact sheets from credible sources. If your child is asking you the same questions repeatedly, they are likely seeking your reassurance.
Assure them that you are doing everything you can to protect them and keep your family safe. They might benefit from knowing that there are doctors and nurses in the community prepared to help. At the same time, do not give false reassurances.
- Children are good at sensing parental anxiety. Manage your anxiety and control your emotions in your children’s presence. Outbursts of fear, anger or worry will undermine your youngsters’ sense of security.
- Try to keep regular routines for doing schoolwork, exercise and activities at home.
- Engage in family activities such as board games, putting puzzles together or doing crafts. Limit TV and social media, so kids are not exposed continuously to upsetting news updates.
- Social distancing is a public necessity. One needs to reduce isolation and improve social connectedness, respecting public health measures. Use technology judiciously to help kids stay connected with their peers and other important people in their lives.
- Monitor changes in your children’s behavior. Some children might act out their anxiety with tantrums, withdrawal, clinging or being disruptive. Others may experience upsetting dreams, stomachaches or fatigue.
Usually, these changes pass in a few weeks, and children will adapt to new routines and evolving circumstances. However, if your kids still seem affected after a month or two, seek help from your primary care provider. Importantly, continue to show your love, so your children will know they are safe and supported.
For more information about the services offered at Columbus Psychiatry Clinic or Columbus Community Hospital, call 402-562-4765 or visit the Columbus Psychiatry Clinic
Dr. Kolli is board-certified in adult psychiatry and child and adolescent psychiatry. He provides services at Columbus Psychiatry Clinic.