For many of us, the COVID-19 pandemic has brought a wave of uncertainty and stress to our daily lives. During this time, it is important to understand that your feelings and emotions are normal and that you’re not in this alone!
This blog is part of a wellness-focused series that provides some tools and strategies used in a range of YW programs and services to help you bettter understand and manage your stress during this unprecedented time.
During these challenging times, many of us are experiencing stress, anxiety and even fear in light of COVID-19. Parents and caregivers may be feeling overwhelmed with uncertainty and trying to navigating how best to best answer their children’s questions about the pandemic.
If you are feeling challenged with the task of explaining the current circumstances to your children, take heart knowing that an open discussion as a family about COVID-19 can go a long way in reducing stress and anxiety. Above all, keep in mind what is appropriate for your child’s developmental level to tailor your discussion and use of language accordingly.
Here are some ideas on how to approach this ongoing conversation and address some unnerving topics in a mindful, intentional way:
- Balance your child’s need for information without overwhelming them with unnecessary details. Notice what your child does and does not have interest in learning about COVID-19. Limit their exposure to media messages that promote fear and instead focus on the facts.
- Ask your children what they understand or have heard about the virus. This will help facilitate a conversation around false information.
- Focus on the positive steps your family can take together to keep everyone safe. “When we wash our hands and stay at home, we are doing everything we can to stay healthy and not get sick”. Telling our children that “home is safe,” is a strong, reassuring message.
- Acknowledge that we are in a time of uncertainty. Uncertainty just means the future is unclear. We often jump to negative thinking, imagining that the worst will happen, increasing our stress and anxiety. Focus on what you can control; plan and schedule activities so that you can visualize the future.
- Role model physical distancing, hand washing and practice good hygiene. As well, role model what it looks like to keep calm during times of stress. Anxiety is contagious and it is important to send the message to our children that we are resilient. “I’ve noticed that I’m feeling a little overwhelmed today, I think it would help me to try doing something I enjoy right now. Do you want to grab your book so we can read together?”
- As a family, generate ideas about some of the calming activities you can do together like reading, going for a walk, weekly board game nights.
- Validate any emotions and provide space for your children to share their concerns. “It’s okay that you feel worried right now. Our emotions are like the waves of the ocean, they come in and they go out. You won’t always feel this way”.
- Practice gratitude! Create a family ritual where everyone can identify something they are grateful for that day.
Pandemic aside, we know that children thrive with routine and a consistent schedule. This is especially true in times of stress as children benefit from knowing what is going to happen and when. As much as possible, stick to a daily plan with regular activities for things like meals, physical activity and bedtime.
Hopefully these ideas offer a small sense of comfort in knowing how to approach supporting your children through the days ahead. Check out more information on YW’s parenting support programs, now available virtually!
Written by: Mackenzie Fraser and Gemma Leonard, Child Development Counsellors, YW Calgary