With the rapid changes we are all facing in our day-to-day lives, the feeling of being overwhelmed, worried or having unease is far from uncommon. These feelings are often expected following a stressful event, such as the announcement of a global pandemic. It is important that we take the time to look after ourselves, as well as those around us. Many children will also be feeling the same worry and unease– as their day-to-day lives and regular routines change and we all sit in unknown territory.
When children are feeling a bit overwhelmed or anxious about the pandemic, some important things we can do are:
Talk about it with them. Be open to talking about the coronavirus with your children. Avoiding the topic may leave them feeling worried and unsure about what is happening. Social stories about coronavirus, handwashing and social distancing may be helpful for your child to understand in an age appropriate manner.
Give honest, accurate information at the level children can understand. When discussing the pandemic, keep your language simple with younger children and provide older children and teenagers more detailed information as you see appropriate. It is important to remind children that by social distancing they are much less likely to get the virus, but if they do– they will get better.
Additionally, provide children with the opportunity to ask questions as this may help reduce any anxiety they may be feeling. According to the Australian Psychological Society, you can do this by:
Stay positive and hopeful. It’s helpful if we talk in a positive and hopeful manner with children. We can explain to them that there are lots of doctors, nurses, hospital workers and scientists working hard all around the world, and that our job is to stay safe by staying home and washing our hands.
Have a routine. Having a routine and normality in the house can help children feel more regulated during this time. Visual schedules can be a great way to show children each day’s plan– which is particularly helpful when children are undertaking distance education.
Additionally, to help children get ready to learn at home, some important things we can do are:
Create a clear learning space for your child. Find a special place at home that is clutter-free and quiet which your child can use to complete their schoolwork at home. If you are using your kitchen table, remove all possible distractions such as turning off the television, and taking everything else off the table. The kitchen items can be returned to the table when the learning space has finished for the day.
Make a schedule and follow through with using it. Creating a schedule helps to keep everyone in a routine with the school day. This can be done as either a written schedule with colour-coding or a visual schedule. A link for creating a visual schedule at home has been provided below.
Take brain breaks throughout the day to go outside and create time for physical exercise. Joe Wicks also provides daily P.E. workouts for children on YouTube under “P.E. with Joe”.
From the team at Melbourne Child Development, we hope you are all staying well during this time. Please reach out to your clinicians if there is anything we can do to help support you children and family during this time. If you would like any further information on supporting children at home using visual schedules or social stories, please contact us on 9890 1062.
Visual Schedule for children: https://www.andnextcomesl.com/2014/04/free-printable-daily-schedule.html
Social Distancing video by the Wiggles: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jUmSiLXesKI&fbclid=IwAR3OXNWBsJjTuFdQ60BCAwF0AZAoJh3g8pB6ZEZ9Rvj3vAjlfYJ3FIztNT8
Australian Psychological Society. (2020). Tips for coping with coronavirus anxiety. Retrieved from https://www.psychology.org.au/getmedia/38073179-4701-48bd-afd9-988c560ee2f9/20APS-IS-COVID-19-P1.pdf
Royal Children’s Hospital. (2020). Supporting children and young people to cope with the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic. Retrieved from https://www.rch.org.au/kidsinfo/fact_sheets/Supporting_children_and_young_people_to_cope_with_the_coronavirus_COVID-19_pandemic/
Smith, S. S. (2020). Distance learning: 8 tips to get your child ready to learn at home. Retrieved from https://www.understood.org/en/school-learning/learning-at-home/homework-study-skills/online-learning-how-to-prepare-child
Understood. (2020). When kids are anxious about coronavirus: What to do. Retrieved from https://www.understood.org/en/friends-feelings/managing-feelings/stress-anxiety/child-anxious-coronavirus?_ul=1*1kdx5qv*domain_userid*YW1wLTJJdkIzNHpWNzRWUy1KUDBoYW04dFE.