Talking to Your Kids About COVID-19

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With all the changes over the past couple of weeks and feelings of uncertainty related to COVID-19, we here at North Texas Counseling Associates thought it would be helpful to provide some resources to help stay connected, talk to your children about COVID-19, and tips to manage stress and anxiety.

Tips for Staying Social:

Although we are currently in the process of social distancing and shelter in place, physical distance does not mean we have to remain socially disconnected and isolated. We have many ways of maintaining social connection including:

  • Call/Skype/FaceTime/Zoom with family members
  • Write letters/create cards for relatives
  • Go outside and greet or talk to neighbors from a 6-foot restriction.
  • Host a virtual meal/playdate
  • Watch a movie as a group-Netflix has it where you can stream with friends!
  • Attend a virtual concert, church service, exercise class
  • Play online games together
  • Virtually visit more than 1,200 museums around the world via Google Arts & Culture
  • Practice Self-Care!
    • Read
    • Journal
    • Meditate
    • Take a bath
    • Find things that relax you!

Tips for Staying Active and Connected as a Family:

With cancellation of activities like birthday parties, sleepovers, sports, clubs, and even school, this is a great time to maintain and improve your connection as a family:

  • Play cards/board games
  • Do puzzles
  • Make arts and crafts
  • Cook/bake
  • Look at family pictures, maybe update family photos and reminisce.
  • Make puppets
  • Have a dance party
  • Play in the yard
  • Take walks (using a healthy distance)
  • Establish routines to help create a sense of structure at home

Tips for Talking with Children about COVID-19:

  • Don’t be afraid to discuss it! Not talking about something can actually make kids worry more. Look at the conversation as an opportunity to convey the facts and set the emotional tone.
  • Be developmentally appropriate. Don’t volunteer too much information, this can be overwhelming to a child. Instead, simply try to answer your child’s questions. Do your best to answer honestly and clearly. It’s okay if you can’t answer everything; being available to your child is what matters.
  • Take your cues from your child. Invite your child to tell you anything they may have heard about the coronavirus, and how they feel. Give them ample opportunity to ask questions. Reflect their feelings and help build their emotional language.
  • Deal with your own anxiety. If you feel anxious, take some time to calm down before trying to have a conversation or answer your child’s questions. This also models for the child how to deal with their own anxiety.
  • Be reassuring. It’s helpful to reassure your child about how you as a family are doing to take care of one another. Normalize their fears and anxiety. Even share you are nervous too! But also talk about how you are doing your part to stay safe.
  • Focus on what you’re doing to stay safe. An important way to reassure kids is to emphasize the safety precautions that you are taking. Children feel more empowered when they know what to do to stay safe. We know that the coronavirus is transmitted mostly by coughing and touching surfaces. The CDC recommends thoroughly washing your hands as the primary means of staying healthy. So remind kids that they are taking care of themselves by washing their hands with soap and water for 20 seconds (or the length of two “Happy Birthday” songs) when they come in from outside, before they eat, and after blowing their nose, coughing, sneezing or using the bathroom.
  • Stick to routine. Structured days with regular mealtimes and bedtimes are an essential part of keeping kids happy and healthy.
  • Keep talking. Tell kids that you will continue to keep them updated as you learn more. Demonstrate and verbalize that the line of communication is still open, and this can be a regular discussion.

Tips to Manage Stress and Anxiety:

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  • Reduce the pressures of parenting and be kind to yourself
    • You may feel like you have a lot more on your to-do list, especially with kids at home.
  • Feel good about what is going well and celebrate the small things! Pat yourself on the back for a decent meal, a funny joke, or just quiet moments.
  • Build a new routine at home. Remember to include breaks for everyone to take care of themselves with downtime, playtime, and exercise.
  • Speak up when you need help and offer support when you can.
  • Embrace flexibility. Have your children help you make and keep your daily schedule.
  • Take care of your body. Exercise, deep breathing, stretch. Try and eat well, get plenty of sleep, and make time to unwind. Try to do some other activities you enjoy. Talk to a mental health professional if stress gets in the way of your daily activities for several days in a row.
  • See the world through your child’s eyes. They are learning through you, try and see things from their perspective.
  • Stay informed. Find trusted sources and limit your exposure to the news and media. Social media can be a major source of social support, but can also create feelings of fear, panic, and, for some, feelings of inadequacy.

Additional Resources:

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Sometimes the pressure can be too much. Reaching out for help is important for you and your family. The following are 24-hour free help lines for different needs.

  • For confidential support when you need help with the stresses of parenting, call Child Help:
    • Call or text 1-800-4-A-Child (1-800-422-4453) or live chat at childhelp.org
  • For help with teen specific concerns:
    • Call Texas Youth Helpline: 800-989-6884 or text 512-872-5777
  • For help with parenting tips, local resources and to learn about family fun:
  • For mental health support and crisis care, call iCARE:
    • Call or text iCARE at 817-335-3022
  • For access to services through a social service hotline:
  • National Domestic Violence Hotline:
    • 800-799-7233
  • The Family Place Crisis Hotline:
    • 214-941-1991
  • Genesis Women’s Shelter:
    • 214-946-4357
  • Hope’s Door:
    • 972-422-2911
  • Safe Haven of Fort Worth:
    • 877-701-7233

For all other questions/updates on COVID-19, visit cdc.gov.

If you suspect a child is being abused or neglected, please contact the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services toll free at 1-800-252-5400, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

You may also file a report using the secure TDFPS website. Reports made through this website take up to 24 hours to process.

The Texas Abuse Hotline is 1-800-252-5400.

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