Parenting Tips for COVID-19
What to Know
The evolving news about the outbreak of coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19) is unsettling for us all. It is natural that our children are also going to have questions and concerns. Take the time to talk to your children and answer their questions honestly, Help them identify the emotions they are feeling whether it is anxiety, fear or even sadness about the changes that are occurring right now. Validate those emotions because they are normal reactions for this time. However, the most important part of this conversation is to REASSURE your children that they are SAFE.
Despite the uncertainty about the coronavirus, there are many ways that we can help one another promote wellness and cope with stress at this time.
Get the Facts & Keep Calm – Stay informed with up to date and credible resources, including the Virginia Department of Health website about the status of coronavirus in Virginia. The Thomas Jefferson Health District is also staffing a COVID-19 information line at 434-972-6261 to address questions for residents of Charlottesville, Albemarle, Fluvanna, Greene, Louisa, and Nelson Counties. The CDC offers many tips for household plans and supplies. If a family member does get sick, know that most people affected by coronavirus will have mild symptoms, and will be okay. You can use the Thomas Jefferson Health District line to help maintain confidence and know what to do if or when someone is sick.
Stay Safe and Practice Healthy Habits – This is a great time to talk to kids about germs and the importance of washing hands and using alcohol-based hand sanitizers, covering coughs, and avoid touching our face to keep ourselves and our community safe. Eating well, getting enough sleep, and avoiding drugs and alcohol are always important to maintain health and reduce stress.
Stick to a Routine – While there are a lot of uncertainties right now, children need routines for security so they know what to expect day to day. Stick to regular meal times and bedtimes. Designate portions of your day for schoolwork, reading time, outdoor play, family time, art/craft time, screen time, etc and maintain that consistency. Draw up a schedule and post it so everyone knows what to expect day to day.
Practice Building Skills – Take this time to work on building a skill for your child. This could be as small as being responsible for pet care or helping with meal preparations. Practice coping skills such as meditation/prayer, journaling or creating art. Any skill, no matter how small, builds confidence and resilience in children.
Go outside – Being outdoors is so good for our mental health and a great and safe activity. Go outside and play in your yard, go to a local park, or go for a hike or walk in your neighborhood! Either way, find a way to spend some time outdoors every day. Consider use of apps like the Mind Trails project being developed by UVA.
Establish family time – We are all spending more time at home so take this opportunity to build family connections. Set aside time to play board games or cards as a family. Maybe work on a puzzle together or a family art project. Have a family sing-a-long or dance party! Either way, spending quality time together as a family builds our relationships with each other and provides a sense of security for our kids
What Does Social Isolation Mean for My Family?
While we want people to stay at home as much as possible, it does not mean you cannot connect with others. Talking with friends, family, co-workers and neighbors and reaching out for mental health support when needed is an important way to decrease stress. At this time, children may connect with a small group of friends outside as long as no one has any signs of illness in the household and they are careful to wash hands. Older individuals are at highest risk so we recommend limiting contact with older relatives and neighbors. Make plans for ways to stay in touch by phone and other digital platforms should the need arise. Of course, if you or your child is not feeling well, it is very important to stay at home until you are feeling better.
If you currently see a therapist, you can ask about options for phone sessions. There are many on-line substance use recovery support services that you can find here.