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Published on March 24, 2020

covid-19 virus illustration

How Can You Help Kids Worried About COVID-19

When the world around us is uneasy and rapidly changing, it’s overwhelming for adults.

Those same rules apply to kids.

Making sense of things like viruses, pandemics and a new normal of not leaving the house can confuse anyone. But there are methods that can make a difference.

“It’s normal to have worries, we all do, but we need to encourage children to talk about their feelings,” said Sarah Flynn, MD, Avera child and adolescent psychiatrist. “Reassure them that most people, especially children, are not likely to become ill. Their parents and other grown-ups are making decisions to keep them safe and healthy.”

Dr. Flynn offered additional advice for helping kids cope, including:

  • For older children, social isolation can be a particularly difficult adjustment. Conversations about the importance of staying home so we can “all do our part” to stop the spread of illness is important. “You can help them stay in contact with friends, have game nights or even watch movies through social media,” she said. “It’s a good time to plan events in the future so they can look forward to a time when they can spend in person time with friends.”
  • Keeping structure and routines is important for everyone. Bedtimes, meal times and exercise are all important, especially in a time of uncertainty. “Even though going to the playground may not be an option, getting outside, playing in the yard while practicing social distancing is important,” said Flynn. “Indoors, it’s time to break out puzzles, games and craft projects.”
  • If mom and dad are working from home, develop a way to divide time with supervision. “Encourage children to be involved with home responsibilities and meal preparation, depending on their age,” Flynn said. “School-age children should keep the routine of a school day. You might considering relaxing your rules about screen time so “virtual play dates” can take place, too. You can reset boundaries with screen time sometime later.”
  • Communication is powerful – be it between you and your partner or your family. “Let children ask questions and take the time to help them better understand what’s going on,” she said. “Try to monitor your own anxieties and language when talking to children or around them.”
  • Monitor and limit time on news media sites related to COVID-19. Be calm, mindful, and kind to one another. “No one is perfect, and the changes to schedules and routines are stressful," Flynn said. "Give each other additional consideration while everyone in the household is adjusting to a new routine.”

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