5 ways to help our children and young people cope with the stress of the coronavirus outbreak.

The current lockdown situation is affecting us all. Life isn’t what we are used to currently and we are surrounded in many ways by fear and uncertainty.  

Regardless of age, this situation will also be an extremely difficult time for our children and young people. Some may be feeling the effects of this early on whilst others may not outwardly show these signs of difficulty until much later. Both situations are completely normal. We are all different after all and we all process and react to situations in different ways and at different stages.

Many of us will likely experience heightened levels of anxiety and stress through this situation. Children within your care will often react to and base their behaviours on what they see in the adults around them.  

So, what can we do to ensure that any fears are identified, acknowledged and supported?

Provide clear information

It can be tempting to try and shield children from what is going on in the world, especially those that are very young and considered more vulnerable.  

All children and young people want is to feel protected and that the adults around them will keep them safe. The best way to ensure that we are doing this is to be as open and honest about what is going on as is possible. You will want to ensure that the information you are giving is age-appropriate but don’t be afraid to answer their questions and give honest, factual answers.     

Explain that all the guidelines in place and that everything that we are doing is to keep themselves and their loved ones safe. Try to encourage them to take ownership of the things that they can control, such as washing hands and using a tissue to sneeze or cough into. Let them know that they are doing a vital job.

Listen and more importantly acknowledge

Find out what your child already knows about the Coronavirus. Ensure that you make yourself available to listen and answer any questions or queries that they may have. Let your child talk about their feelings, if they are scared or worried acknowledge this and let them know that you love them and that it is ok for them to feel this way.

It may seem that your children are “playing up” and that tantrums become more frequent. Remember that your children may be frustrated by the change in structure and routine that they are so used to, and this may be the only way they have to tell you they are struggling. Reassure them that this is all very new to everyone but that you will keep them updated as you learn more.

Be calm and reassuring

Don’t forget……. children are always listening - although it doesn’t seem like it when you are asking them to do something of course! They will react not only to what you are saying but also to the way you say it, the language and the tone that you use, even your body language. It is important that we model the behaviours that we want to see in our children. 

Stick where possible to familiar routines.

With so much uncertainty surrounding ourselves, we are all having to adapt and come up with new routines. Whilst this is difficult for us as adults, it can be extremely hard for children as they are often comforted and reassured by their routine. Try and keep mealtime and bedtime routines set for children, especially those in the pre-teen age group.

Trust your instincts

Everyone is different, every child is different. We all have different triggers, beliefs and behaviours. You know your child/the young person in your care, what makes them tick and what they need. Trust that you also know what sort of information they need and how much detail they can handle.  

If some days that home-schooling schedule is going to do more harm than good and extra play or screen time is what your child needs to stay happy and healthy then trust yourself to make that decision. As long as your child is supported and loved, the other stuff will come.