By Kathleen Swift, Family and Lifespan Ministry Director
Like most of us, your fears and anxieties over the coronavirus COVID-19 are probably elevated right now. Although the risk for children and young adults appears 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 away that is reassuring, but factual. According to experts at the Child Mind Institute, it's better to talk about it than avoid the subject. Your children have probably already seen people wearing masks and have heard stories from their friends. Not talking about it can make kids worry more.
Taking your cues from your child is best-ask what they've heard and how they feel. Give lots of opportunities for questions. 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. Download the free book Coronavirus: A Book for Children.
We all know that children pick up on how we're feeling, particularly if we're feeling anxious and worried about other family members. Keeping calm and not showing our anxiety is important. However, it's okay to tell them it's normal to be a little nervous about this situation.
Consider taking time off from news or allocating a time limit for reading or watching the news. Also, although it's tempting to Google symptoms, it's not a good idea-especially if you suffer from health anxiety. Try meditation. According to WebMD, even meditating 10 minutes aday can help you control and reduce stress and anxiety. If meditation doesn't come easy to you, the Mindful Movement is offering a free 20 minute guided meditation.
Exercise is another excellent tool for reducing stress. It stimulates the production of endorphins (natural painkillers and mood elevators) and 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. The San Diego Parks and Recreation Website that shows what closures there are, view the Park listings.
Don't forget the importance of play for your kids! Doing crafts and baking are great-I recommend both-but getting physical is also imperative. You and your kids can do a free Cosmic Kids Yoga Adventure.
Finally, it's 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, our staff has been trying new ways to reach out. We have virtual meetings for parents, teens, and children. The teen groups are meeting virtually as part of their religious education program on Sundays plus two extra days for fun. The younger kids are enjoying this as well, especially as the weeks stretch into months.
Our kids 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'll 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 share your ideas about what to do with kids that are home from school. 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.
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