Like most of us, your fears and anxieties over the coronavirus COVID-19 are probably elevated. Although the risk for children and young adults appear to be less than for older adults, news of this pandemic is changing daily and is alarming. Many parents are wondering how to talk about it with their children in a way that is reassuring but factual. According to experts at the Child Mind Institute, it’s better to talk about it than avoid the subject. They have probably already seen people wearing masks and have heard stories from their friends. Not talking about it, in fact, can make kids worry more. You do have to think about what is developmentally appropriate. In fact, taking your cues from your child is best—ask what they have heard and how they feel. Give lots of opportunities for questions. Since children are egocentric, just hearing about the disease on the news may be enough to make them worry that they will catch it. (This is an excellent reason to limit their exposure to the news.) Be reassuring; let them know the disease is rare, and that kids have milder symptoms. Also, focus on what your family is doing to stay safe.
Of course, this may be easier said than done, particularly if you are feeling anxious and are worried about other family members. We all know that children pick up on how we are feeling. Keeping calm and showing no anxiety are important. I think it’s okay to tell them it is normal to be a little nervous. If you are a “newsy,” consider taking time off from news, or allocating a time limit for reading or watching the news. Also remember, as tempting as it can be to Google symptoms, it’s not a good idea—especially if you tend to be a sufferer of health anxiety. Try meditation. According to WebMD, even 10 minutes a day can help you control and reduce stress and anxiety. If meditation doesn’t come easy to you, try this 20 minute guided meditation from the Mindful Movement: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MIr3RsUWrdo
Exercise is another excellent tool for reducing stress. It not only stimulates the production of endorphins (natural painkillers and mood elevators) but it reduces adrenaline and cortisol which are our body’s stress hormones. You can’t go to the gym (since it is likely closed) but you can take a walk or watch an exercise video. As of this writing, San Diego parks are mostly open. Here is a link to the San Diego Parks and Recreation Website that shows what closures there are, updated daily: http://www.sdparks.org/content/sdparks/en/news-events/news-stories/ParkNoticesandClosures.html.html And, don’t forget the importance of play for your kids! Doing crafts and baking are great—I recommend both--but getting physical is imperative. Here is a link to “A Cosmic Kids Yoga adventure”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iWowDC3x0hE&feature=youtu.be
Finally, it’s also extremely important to stay in community. Deciding to temporarily close the church did not come easy to our ministers—and the biggest angst was the idea of all of us not staying in community. So, over the next few weeks, our staff will be trying new ways to reach out. Maybe we’ll have some virtual meetings for parents, and some for kids, too. The teen groups will be meeting virtually as part of their religious education program. I think younger kids might like that, as well—especially if the weeks stretch into months. By press time, the kids will have stayed home from school and are likely missing their friends. Try setting up a free Zoom chat, Skype, or Facebook streaming session for them. They will be needing connections with their school and church buddies just as much as they need to keep up with their studies.
I’d like to write about what to do with kids that are home from school—if we are still in that position. There is a lot of information out there with suggestions, but I’d love to hear from you about what has (and hasn’t) worked, so I can pass it along to everyone. Take care.
~ Kathleen Swift
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