Personal Learning

Navigating Conversation of COVID-19 with Kids (Anxiety/Mental Health Wellness Check-In)

As I navigate life within the walls of my own home under new “rules” and true uncertainty, I find myself reaching out to an abundance of resources to help navigate these very murky waters. Not only am I a parent, but I am a parent of two teenage children who access the world in a variety of ways… without the same “control” I once had when they were little and I could shield them from the world. Whether it is Snap-chat, Face-time, Instagram, or any other means of communication, my children are connected to their friends and the world, which means they are connected to the latest news, leaving them with facts and even opinions of COVID19.

For this mom, I must rely on my own gut, mixed with the knowledge of professionals as I lead my children through this time of uncertainty. As a teacher, my children have looked to me for answers about their education. As a mom, they are looking to me for stability and hope. With the support of professionals to help with their questions and elevated anxiety, I am better equipped to be the best mom I can be for each of them. I hope by sharing the professional advice of Hilary Zurbuch, LPC, you will also have an extra resource to help you navigate conversations and time at home with your children.

“Parents, as we are stepping into uncertainty with COVID19, I am sure you have a lot of questions on how to talk to your children and what to do with your days as you may be working from home and your children may be homeschooling. Most importantly, talk with another adult about what you are feeling and your own fears before you try to explain these uncharted territories with your children.  If need be, take time to call your/a therapist to ask for a telehealth or phone appointment to try to make a plan for your anxiety before you begin to discuss this unknown with your child.  Remember, the status of this virus is continuously changing.

First, have a plan. Before talking to your child about the recent climate and the escalating concerns in our world today, plan it out. Children are basically sponges and feed off your emotions and words. It is important to be age-appropriate with your child, and provide reassurance that many adults are handling the situation. With several new terms that have entered our world over the last two weeks, keep the following things in mind:

EXPLAIN CDC

It is crucial to explain what the Center for Disease Control (CDC )is before you tell them to follow the recommendations.  Explain what the CDC does and how it is a program that is here to protect us, not just now in this situation but it has been doing this since they were born.  

SOCIAL DISTANCING

Social distancing is another term that sounds extremely frightening.   Use multi-player video games as a metaphor. Kids have been practicing this idea for years but had no clue that was what they were doing.

TELEHEALTH

Telehealth is an important term as well.  This is a possibility as to how/where they will see the doctor and therapist for the next month or so. Currently, the government has allowed all therapists to provide either telehealth or phone calls without stringent rules. Reach out to a therapist. 

Don’t:

  • make your children wake up at 6:00 am, let them sleep in a bit. 
  • have adult topic conversations with your children

To-dos:

  • Maintain all hygiene routines: get dressed, put on socks, and maybe even style hair. 
  • Keep a sense of normalcy: Develop a schedule for the day, children need this routine. 
  • Try having a family meeting to discuss things they have wanted to do but did not have time and add that to the daily schedule
  • Make time for FaceTime with extended family. This is not only important to your child but to your family that may be held up in the house without contact.  
  • Go outside! The backyard has an opportunity to bring back the old school games like whiffleball or kickball.  
  • Try to add a part in the schedule that is spontaneous each day, spontaneity is exciting for kids and gives them something to look forward to each day. Keep in mind that these days are going to be lengthy. Whether it is a special new card game or baking something in the kitchen with parents, or as simple as watching a classic movie on the couch, make it happen! 
  • I cannot stress enough to GO OUTSIDE daily several times per day, obviously continuing to follow social distancing. Fresh air and exercise are crucial right now. 
  • Decrease the talk about the virus.  Determine a time that is appropriate to talk about it, turn the news off, 
  • Decrease social media for children. Not all media can be trusted and it is a host for anxiety.  
  • Parents take care of themselves and designate time out of each day for yourself. Everyone needs a time out and some alone time, even you. You need to practice what you are preaching!
  • Take time to embrace the extra time you have with your children. When was the last time you had the opportunity to open periods of time as a family? No, this is not a novel gift of togetherness and yes, it is forced on us which can cause a frenzy with your children. Remember this is not normal and your children are aware, stay patient.” -Hilary Zurbuch, LPC

Anxiety is not isolated to my home, it is heightened across the globe. It is times like this that we have to recognize our own stress or anxiety in order to help those around us. Please reach out to your own doctor or a local Licensed Professional Counselor if you feel in any way you need help determining which of these you may be managing for yourself and or loved ones.  

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