Helping Your Child Deal With COVID 19
The COVID 19 pandemic can be particularly anxiety-provoking for children due to the constant barrage of information they are exposed to. Alarming news reports, constant updates on social media, and rumors are virtually inescapable. For children prone to anxiety, it's particularly panic-inducing, as they often struggle to filter facts from fear.

Experts in the field of psychology have encouraged parents to monitor their children's exposure to information. While it is beneficial for children to know the facts in order to keep themselves and their community safe, experts caution that too much exposure can be counter-productive. Today's parents recognize that the social and media environment around their children has changed dramatically, with information constantly becoming available in real time. Compounding the issue is the fact that there are so many unknowns, including the number and severity of health related illnesses that may occur as a result of COVID 19. When we are confronted with something that is frightening and unpredictable, anxiety rises.

Below are some tips from mental health experts on how to address COVID 19 with your children:

Inform your children and share updates: Dr. Mark Reinecke, clinical director of the Child Mind Institute encourages parents to be the ones to share information about the coronavirus and the risks involved, rather than allowing them to learn about it from the media or their friends. This way, parents can insure that their children are getting accurate and reliable information.

    Be honest if there is something you don't know: If your child poses a question about the outbreak and you don't know the answer, it's actually more helpful if you admit that. According to mental health experts, it's OK to say, " I need to get more information. I don't have the answer to your question." While acknowledging the validity of your child's fears, remind them that experienced scientists, doctors, and nurses are "working very hard" to keep us safe.

    Put down your phone: While it is tempting to constantly refresh your news feed to get the latest information regarding the outbreak, spending excessive amounts of time dwelling on an issue is counterproductive. By doing so, you may feel more anxious, worried, and distressed. Mental health experts recommend designating a point in the day to "give your mind a rest" and distract the family by shifting the focus to more pleasant topics of conversation or activity.

      Explain that sometimes things are unpredictable: Every parent would like to reassure their children that everything will be OK. But during uncertain times like these, it's important for parents to be honest and transparent. Parents are in a position to explain that sometimes we need to accept - and learn to cope with - uncertainty. While we can't predict the future, we can teach our children to tolerate uncertainty.

        Create a safe environment for your child to express his/her fears: It's important during times of high stress that we create a safe and nurturing environment for our kids to express their fears and concerns. Even if your child shares an unrealistic fear, don't minimize his/her worry. Instead, validate that feeling and ask where it is coming from. "Where have you heard that?" is a good question to begin. "What's the evidence that leads you to think this could be true?" is another plausible follow-up parents can pose.

          Prepare your kids for the likely scenario, not the worst case scenario: While it's important for parents to listen to their children's concerns, it's important that they discourage frightening scenarios that may take place in their children's minds. If a parent models resilience in the face of a stressful event, children will learn that it is possible to tolerate a stressful situation and cope with uncomfortable feelings. Parents can do so by reminding children that truly catastrophic outcomes are the exception to the rule.

          Click on the following links for additional information on how to support your teenagers through the coronavirus pandemic:

          Parents can also reach out to Mrs. Ahern, our middle school counselor, throughout the district's virtual schooling period regarding their child's mental health needs. Communication options, as well as virtual school counseling sessions, can be set up by contacting Mrs. Ahern at [email protected].