Sharing Information about COVID-19 with Children and Teens
Epilepsy News From: Monday, April 06, 2020
There are still many unknowns about COVID-19. Uncertainty can bring worry for families. Children and teens will have a range of emotions during the COVID-19 pandemic, and they will also have age specific concerns and questions. The most reassuring way to manage information in this unique time is with regular family check-ins and conversations with parents and caregivers. Some general tips for families include the following.
Talking and Making Plans
- Use reliable sources as you plan for your family’s needs. Remember to focus on the things that are most relevant which you, or your child or teen, are able to control. Keep explanations age appropriate.
- Communicate your family plan (handwashing, healthy habits, and routines) in a calm and reassuring way. Model simple safety measures, like removing shoes at the door, handwashing, and coughing into your elbow.
- Share that adults at home and school will always do their very best to take care of a child’s health and safety.
- Make yourself available to talk and do your best to address fears and concerns. Choose your words carefully. Consider using words like “physical spacing” or “physical distancing” when talking about keeping a safe distance from other people instead of terms like “social distancing” or “lockdown.”
Home, School and Healthy Activities
- Keep an eye on television and social media use. Limit access to concerning or scary information from unreliable sources. Correct misinformation.
- Keep a sense of normalcy in your home. Stick to routines around mealtimes, bedtimes, and playtimes when possible.
- Create consistent learning routines. Use both indoor and outdoor learning spaces if possible when school learning has shifted to a home setting. However, be flexible. A pandemic is a lot for everyone to take in and process. Adjust lesson plans based on how your child or teen is coping and communicate with their teachers.
- Take learning outdoors when you can. Hold a messy art class in the yard, bring reading hour to your porch, teach a new skill like mindfulness or yoga for “gym class” in the backyard.
- Model and encourage healthy behaviors (sleep, exercise, and healthy eating). Limit screen time as best you can and spend time outdoors together. Consider scheduling a daily family walk, have a spring garden challenge and assign tasks, or save a little bit of time each day for outdoor fun that can be as simple as playing tag or hide and seek in the yard.
Stay Connected and Get Help
- Keep in touch with friends and family on the phone and by video chat if possible. Reassure your child or teen that the changes in daily life are temporary and that things will get back to what they are used to.
- If your child has an underlying anxiety disorder, they may find information about the pandemic worrisome and difficult to process. Monitor your child or teen for anxiety and reach out by phone, email, or a patient portal to their mental health providers if you feel it is needed. Phone counseling or a telehealth visit may be an option.
- World Health Organization (WHO): Helping Children Cope with Stress During the 2019-nCOv outbreak
- Brains On Podcast for Kids: “Understanding Coronavirus and How Germs Spread”
- Nationwide Children's Hospital's On Our Sleeves: "Behavioral Health Resources for Coronavirus"
Elaine Kiriakopoulos MD, MSc
Monday, April 06, 2020