How to support your child when they feel worried

During these uncertain times, we can’t promise our children things that we don’t control. We don’t know if people we love will become sick or that things will get easier by a certain date, but we can provide a sense of safety. Here are some ways you might help ease your child’s worries:

  • As much as possible, keep your children away from news of COVID-19.
  • When your children are feeling worried, you can sit with them and encourage them to “draw it out.” Help them name their feeling (worried, anxious, afraid, sad, concerned, frustrated, and so on). Then ask, “What color is your feeling? What shape?” Help them label their picture with words or sentences. This works with any feeling (of course, there can be more than one feeling in a picture). You can model the strategy by drawing your own feelings, too.
  • Encourage your children to ask questions. Answer them simply but honestly, giving them just the information they are asking for. Often, knowing the facts (even if they are worrisome) is better than not knowing.
  • Make one time of day (such as mealtime), or one area of the home (such as your children’s bedrooms) a “no virus talk!” zone. In that zone, you might talk about things you want to do again once things change, favorite places you’ve been together, your favorite moment of the day so far, and something you’re looking forward to tomorrow.
  • Explain that while we can’t control what’s happening in the world, we can control a lot of what happens in our home. Just by staying home, keeping safe distances, handwashing, and coughing and sneezing into our elbows, your children help keep the whole family and many others safe.

You can also watch children for signs of stress. In preschool, these may include fear of being alone, bad dreams, “accidents” or constipation, bed-wetting, changes in appetite, or an increase in temper tantrums, whining, or clinginess. Besides the suggestions above, your extra hugs and reassurance, plus doing calming, comforting things at bedtime, can go a long way.

Years from now, your children will remember the times you were positive, patient, and calm. Even through this challenge, you can build a foundation of strength and resilience that can last a lifetime.

Adapted from @SesameStreetInCommunities

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