There have been a lot of sudden changes that you and your loved ones may have been dealing with recently. These changes may be stressful and scary for both adults and children. Having your child home full-time, needing to help with their school work, worries about loved ones getting sick, loss of jobs and deadly storms add a lot to the stress of children and adults. Here are some tools that can help:
- Routine –Try to keep a steady routine every day. Even a simple schedule like breakfast, exercise/play outside, school work, outside play, then lunch helps kids know what to expect and helps them feel safer.
- Praise –Time-out is helpful for kids who are acting up, but remember to also notice and praise kids when you see them being good, kind and helpful. Even a few minutes of special play time with your child can be a great reward for them.
- School work first –Getting school work out of the way in the morning is often easier than trying to turn off the TV or take away games to start school. If they know that they get to play as soon as school work is done, it can help kids want to get done more quickly.
- Connect –Help children keep in touch with family and friends through the phone or video chats. They can make a video or draw pictures and send a photo of that picture to family or teachers through a text message.
- Exercise –Make sure children have time to be active several times per day. Going on walks in the neighborhood, running around the yard, or even exercising along with child-friendly YouTube videos can help.
- Healthy food –Eating regular meals, drinking lots of water, and eating healthy food like fruit for snacks can help keep their energy level more consistent through the day compared to the spikes and grumpiness that can happen after eating some snacks or treats. While special treats can help their mood, making sure they have regular meals is also important. Having them help cook some of the food may make them more willing to eat it.
- Sleep –Getting some extra time to sleep in each morning can be very nice, but it is important to keep a steady bedtime routine. Having a good night’s sleep helps everyone’s mood in the family.
Especially when there are potentially scary events in the community, it is important to check in with kids to see what they are worrying about and help them understand in a way that is right for their age.
- Ask –Always start by asking what they think is going on and what they might have heard. Often they will surprise you by what they know, but they may be worried about something that is really not a problem and you can help them feel better about those fears.
- Explain –Sharing true information is important so a child can understand the importance of not playing with other children and washing their hands. Still be careful to tell them about the problem in a way they can understand and not be too scared about.
- Limit media –While we all want to hear and see what has happened, it is important to be careful what your child may be seeing in the news or on social media.
- Show people helping –Showing news stories and talking with your child about all the people who help in scary situations can help them feel safer.
- Find ways to help –Children love to help, so giving them some ideas of things they can do will help them feel like they are not powerless in a scary time. Together you can plan basic safety things like washing their hands. You can also talk about drawing pictures or making cards to thank the helpers. Your child may even want to look through their toys or books or clothes to donate to people in need.
And, remember, if your child keeps feeling very scared or has trouble sleeping because of fear, you can talk with your pediatrician’s office or look at healthychildren.org for more ways to help.
Emily Brandt, MD
Developmental Behavioral Pediatrician
Anna Shaw Children’s Institute
Hamilton Health Care System