covid 19 symptoms in children

How to talk to your children about the second wave of Covid-19

Having honest and accurate discussions with your kids about COVID-19 can help them navigate the stress, anxiety and confusion they might be feeling around the pandemic.
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The fear and uncertainty surrounding the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic is a source of major stress and anxiety for many, including children. Most schools, public places and non-essential businesses are closed yet again, and parents and caregivers are helping children adjust to the changing circumstances. During these difficult times, children worry just as much as adults, if not more, especially when they’re kept in the dark.

Children can have a lot of questions about the evolving coronavirus outbreak, and all the changes occurring in their lives. They hear the news, check social media, overhear conversations—all of which can lead to confusion and fear.

As parents, it is your responsibility to listen to and answer their questions without overwhelming them. They need your help to figure it all out. Talk to your children about their fears and offer reassurance to help reduce their stress and anxiety. This is also the time for you to teach children about preventive measures, healthy lifestyle habits, coping strategies and kindness so they can emerge from this situation stronger and wiser.

Here are a few effective ways to help your children navigate the stress, anxiety and confusion they might be feeling due to the pandemic.

Take time to communicate and listen

Communication and active listening are crucial. Ask your children what they know or have heard about the second wave of COVID-19. Giving children a choice to express their opinions also involves listening to their needs, wants and fears. Tell them that their thoughts and emotions are valid and many are feeling the same way too. Clarify their misconceptions. Have frequent conversations as the pandemic situation evolves, and provide opportunities to your child to ask questions. If required, explain them again. After all, children process information differently. Asking one question over and over may be their way to seek reassurance. Overall, a parent or caregiver should engage in listening, validating and clarifying rather than probing and lecturing their child during these tough times.

Be honest and accurate in an age-appropriate way

You need to be honest with your child since it builds trust and increases your child’s willingness to engage in similar conversations in the future. Get the latest updates from valid sources before talking to your child about COVID-19. But while they want their questions answered, giving children more information than they are ready for can be overwhelming and affect their mental health. The key is to tailor your words to suit your child’s age and ability to process information.

Offer positivity and reassurance

Share stories of kindness and compassion with your kids. Remind them the situation will not last forever, and this experience will make your whole family stronger.  Validate your child’s emotions by saying things like, “It’s okay to feel sad” and “I really miss seeing my friends too.” However, don’t make unrealistic promises. You can’t promise them that there will be no more cases of Covid-19 in children in your community. Tell them that hospitals and healthcare workers are doing their best to take care of the sick. When you offer reassurance to children that adults are managing the situation, you help them find strength, hope and comfort in difficult times.

Encourage healthy and preventive habits

Remind your children that the power to stay healthy is in their hands. Teach them the importance of adopting preventive habits such as washing hands, following coughing etiquette, social distancing and wearing double masks. Involve your children in household activities such as cleaning their rooms, preparing food and ordering groceries. Encourage healthy lifestyle habits like maintaining a routine, eating healthy, getting adequate sleep and staying physically active. This will give children a sense of control and help build resilience and self-efficacy.

Be a role model

Children often follow their parents’ footsteps when it comes to responding to a challenging situation. So remain calm and watch your words, reactions and energy levels. Also, help them deal with feelings of fear and uncertainty by sharing with them the coping strategies you use to deal with such feelings. You can practice relaxation and mindfulness techniques and encourage your children to join in.

Pay attention to their mental health

Watch out for signs of stress and anxiety in your children such as lack of interest in daily activities, trouble sleeping, restlessness, temper tantrums or physical distress such as stomach aches or headaches. Some of these symptoms are coping strategies that help children deal with stress. However, if they interfere with their functioning, talk to a healthcare provider. Help your children release tension and anxiety by encouraging daily physical exercise and activities. Also, continue to provide as much structure to their daily routines as possible.

Limit television, internet and social media use

The devastating effects of the coronavirus now dominate the news and media outlets, and children are exposed to them as well. You must monitor what your children are reading, hearing and watching during these turbulent times. Talk to your children about the constant barrage of fake news on social media that can be scary and stressful. It is always better that children get information from trusted adults rather than unreliable sources. To avoid overexposure to news, turn off the TV when they are around. Or watch something entertaining instead. Limiting and observing their news consumption is a reliable way to protect children from anxiety and distress.

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