It’s a stressful time for us all, and communicating scary news to kids is not easy. We have gathered good sources to help you communicate with children, support them, and manage stress and anxiety during these difficult and uncertain times.
Find ways to talk to your kids.
These trusted sources have guidance and resources on how to best communicate with children about the crisis:
- Center for Disease Control (CDC)
- Office of the California Surgeon General
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration
- National Association of School Psychologists
- New York Times
- The Child Mind Institute
Dr. Ken Duckworth explains how to talk with your children about COVID-19 in an age appropriate way. pic.twitter.com/sPYEbruZlk
— NAMI (@NAMICommunicate) April 30, 2020
Communicate in a calm voice. Find out what they know and share truthful information that is age-appropriate. Consider a daily check-in to see how they are feeling and find out if they have questions or concerns. Let them know it’s okay to feel sad and scared. For younger kids, you might start by sharing this comic.
Monitor news coverage, limit news consumption and stick to one or two trusted sources.
It’s best to go directly to sources of trusted information. For the latest on the pandemic, get information directly from the CDC, WHO, the State of California, and the California Department of Mental Health. Consider tuning in to state or county press conferences, which are also posted online and on social media. Then choose one or two trusted local news sources.
Do your best to stay calm.
We know this is challenging for all of us. The CDC has a page on managing stress and anxiety during this public health crisis. Our suggestions for managing everyday stress are still useful, and you can also utilize tools used for those with PTSD.
Know the signs of stress in children.
Look out for excessive crying, irritation, returning to behaviors they have outgrown (i.e. bedwetting), or excessive worry or sadness in younger children. For kids of all ages: unhealthy eating or sleeping habits, irritability and “acting out” behaviors, difficulty with attention and concentration, unexplained headaches or body pain. For teens: the use of alcohol, tobacco, or other drugs.
Find ways to de-stress with your children.
- The CDC has a page on managing stress and anxiety during this public health crisis, which includes advice for parents. They also have information and resources on helping children cope during disasters and caring for children during disasters.
- For young kids: “How You and Your Kids Can De-Stress During Coronavirus” (PBS)
Engage with other parents.
Start with a group text or email chain with friends and family members who also have children and offer and ask for tips and ideas. Or consider using a video-conferencing platform like Zoom for regular check-ins. Share self-care tips and ways you are coping.
Encourage your children to connect with friends and classmates.
Consider virtual play dates for young kids (i.e. read a story together on FaceTime, Zoom, or Skype) and encourage older kids to have regular check-ins with their friends and classmates using text, email, or social media platforms. Also check out our post on ways to stay connected.
Share your stories and coping strategies.
We have heard from parents in our community and seen and read a lot of posts online about families struggling to maintain calm and patience, and to balance life, work, and home-schooling while confined to home with their children of all ages. You are not alone.
How are you practicing self-care and coping (link to online form)? Do you have ideas for how to help children during this crisis (link to online form) or examples of things that have worked (or haven’t worked) for you, as well as other online sources you’d like us to consider sharing with our community? Share your insights!
Find additional support.
- NAMI’s webinar on supporting the emotional needs of youth during CVOID-19
- Help for caregivers of children with special needs (California Department of Public Health)
- Resources for Parents and Families (California Association of Health and Education Linked Professionals)
- COVID-19 Coping Advice for Parents and Teens (Amanpour & Co., PBS)
- Are you a parent of a child with serious mental illness? Watch a video message from our CEO, Jessica Cruz.
- Find a virtual family support group from one of our local NAMI California affiliates.