HEALTHY LIVING  | 3.19.20  |  by Julie Rhodins

Many parents are having a hard time coping with all the shifting news and fallout about the COVID-19 virus (coronavirus). Together we are figuring out how to cope with every aspect.  This has included economic disruption, more time at home, school cancellations, staying healthy, and more.

This article aims to give you a few tips and resources about talking with your kids about COVID-19. We don’t have all the answers, but what we’ve found at SMG is that even if you employ one or two tips into your life right now, it really helps. We are taking it all one day at a time, and that seems to be a good strategy for most.

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First, take care of yourself

As parents, we are first humans, trying to manage all the influx of change during this time.  But we’ll have a difficult time being calm and helping our children if we don’t take care of ourselves.

Most therapist and meditation experts say to not deny that this is hard and that we can have fear.  It helps to take 5-10 minutes and sit in a quiet place, acknowledging that this is rough.  This can help to calm your brain, which is on overdrive trying to find solutions — the survival mode.

At Mindful.org, there are several ideas for dealing with fear.  One method, says the site, is take several slow-and-deep breaths while putting your hand on your heart.  Then, acknowledge that you’re scared and fearful, even being specific about your fears.

After acknowledging the fear or concern, you can do a kindness, stress relief, or confidence meditation.  There are many free resources on YouTube with guided meditations, as well as paid apps like Headspace or Calm.  Here is a 10-minute stress relief meditation —

Other ways to take care of yourself are to —

  • Make sleep a priority, with 7-9 hours of rest.  But don’t oversleep.  Try to keep a regular sleep and wake schedule, taking in morning sunshine to boost your mood.
  • Get exercise.  If gyms are closed, put together a home workout program.  Again, there are many YouTube videos with free workouts.  Additionally, numerous apps provide home workouts for a low cost.  Going for a walk in the outdoors is also important to get sunshine and to release stress.
  • Eat a healthy diet.  As much as possible, look to pay attention to your diet.  If you eat lots of sugar and fats, they might give you a short-term boost but they don’t give your body the nutrition it needs to be healthy and strong.  You can help your immunity and overall mood and health by eating lots of veggies and fruits and by staying hydrated.  A meal-prep app can be helpful to keep you on track with figuring out meals and making it easier to choose healthy.  And comfort foods, like these baked potato ideas, can keep you grounded with nutritious eats.

Advice from experts about talking with your kids about COVID-19

Stay Calm and Reassuring: The National Association of School Psychologists (NASP) has a comprehensive list for talking to your kids about COVID-19.  It includes remaining calm and reassuring.  Says NASP, “Children will react to and follow your verbal and nonverbal reactions.  What you say and do about COVID-19, current prevention efforts, and related events can either increase or decrease your children’s anxiety.”

It’s hard to be calm and reassuring if you haven’t been taking care of yourself.  So, if in doubt, refer back to our step one above to find a bit more balance before talking with your kids.

Provide Loving Comfort But Also Be Honest: Another tip is from KidsHealth.org which says that we should offer comfort but also be honest.

Follow your child’s lead. Some kids may want to spend time talking. But if your kids don’t seem interested or don’t ask a lot of questions, that’s OK.  Don’t offer more details than your child is interested in. For example, if kids ask about school closings, address their questions. But if the topic doesn’t come up, there’s no need to raise it unless it happens.

Allow Kids To Talk: The CDC says that parents should make themselves available to listen and let kids talk.  Be welcoming to their questions.

Avoid Blaming Others For The Virus.  As the CDC says, “Remember that viruses can make anyone sick, regardless of a person’s race or ethnicity. Avoid making assumptions about who might have COVID-19.”

Talk About Prevention: Talking about prevention can build confidence and help to reduce fear.  Base the prevention in facts.

You can talk about the way to wash your hands, practicing with a fun song.  Also, you can practice how to sneeze or cough in your arm or tissue.  And you can remind your children to not to touch their face as much as possible and only with clean hands.

Include your older children in regularly cleaning off surfaces, washing their hands afterwards.  Many of these preventive measures will need to be reviewed on a daily or weekly basis.  You can put up little notes as reminders, or pass along new hand-cleaning videos to your older kids.

Here’s ways to talk about prevention of COVID-19, including hand washing, with your children from Rush University Medical Center —