It’s a stressful time for us all, and navigating it with children in your care can make things even more challenging. 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
- American Psychological Association
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 by Malaka Ghabrid (@malakaghabrid on Instagram) or the A Kid’s Guide to Coronavirus, a book by Rebecca Growe and Julia Martin Burch that’s available for free download.
Monitor and limit news coverage.
Start and end with trusted sources and also take steps to limit your consumption of news. For the latest on the pandemic, get information directly from the State of California, the California Department of Mental Health, the CDC, and WHO. 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 and California’s Surgeon General, Dr. Nadine Burke Harris created stress relief guide for caregivers and kids during COVID-19. Our suggestions for managing everyday stress are still useful, and you can also utilize tools used for those with PTSD. Remember: to take care of yourself so you can be your best self for your kids!
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: use of alcohol, tobacco, or other drugs.
Find ways to de-stress with your children.
- Use the guide to help families from California’s Surgeon General: Stress Relief for Caregivers and Kids during COVID-19.
- 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 and tips for keeping kids connected while we’re physically distancing from family and friends.
- 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?
Find additional support.
- NAMI’s webinar on supporting the emotional needs of youth during COVID-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)
- Use the California Parent & Youth Helpline at 1-855-427-2736 and Online Parents Anonymous® Groups as part of Governor Newsom’s initiative for COVID-19, which provides evidence-based emotional support 8 am to 8 pm through calls, text, live chat and emails and offers free weekly online support groups sign-ups and resources online: caparentyouthhelpline.org
- Tips from UCSF Psychiatry to help parents who have anxious children having sleep difficulties (Washington Post)
- 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.