How to help kids cope with the stress brought by COVID-19

How to help kids cope with the stress brought by COVID-19

According to Healthline, children who have graduated beyond early elementary into later elementary years, are likely more aware of how unusual the COVID-19 situation is, they may be fearful to both their health and their family members, which is why they may be more likely, to pick up parents’ stress, and anxiety and to have their own worries.

“These children need age-appropriate information about the coronavirus, how it spreads, and their own safety from getting seriously ill. Open up a conversation about the pandemic with your child by asking them what they have heard about coronavirus, to avoid rumours and misinformation that could spread between children of this age,” states Healthline.

Dr Jean-Jules-Alexis Byamukama, at ORKIDE Medical Centre Kigali, says that as everyone tries to fight and prevent the spread of COVID-19, children, like anyone else, are stressed about what the pandemic is doing to their communities. They also participate in the war to fight coronavirus.

He notes that children respond to stress in different ways. Some respond by becoming insecure, anxious, agitated, angry, bed-wetting, among others, they need attention and love, during difficult times. For example, they need to be close to their parents, caregivers, and loved ones either via phone, or social media.

Byamukama also explains that children need additional time to play and relax. Help them create and do things they love most in their favourable environment and time and give them a chance to participate in decisions you make about them.

“Children should be allowed to express themselves, guide them suitably about what is important to their lives and the prevention of COVID-19. Mind to respond to their questions, depending on the rate at which they understand at their age, however, help them express their feelings and show them that you are there for them so that they drop or avoid the confusion,” Byamukama says.

He also notes that for young children, it is necessary to engage them in reading books, or make drawings with pencils, dance to music or compose or sing songs. As a parent, sibling or guardian, assist the little ones with homework, do activities with them, like cleaning or doing home chores together.

For teenagers, Byamukama explains that you can talk about something they like most, for instance, their talents, sports, friends, and other activities. There is no harm in exercising with them. You can also help them stay connected to their friends through social media, just to keep in touch.

Health experts advise keeping watch of teenagers for big changes in behaviour that could signal a depressive episode, for example, withdrawing from the family, isolating in their bedroom, and changing their eating and sleeping habits.

The World Health Organization (WHO) advises on using positive language and praising your child or teenager for something they have done well, as it will reassure them that you notice what they are doing and care about it.

WHO also urges parents to keep it real when it comes to their expectations, asking themselves what is achievable. But also making a schedule that has time for structured activities and free time to help children feel more secure; they may want to join in making plans, like the school timetable.

“Manage acting out, give your child a choice to follow your instructions before giving them the consequences, once the consequence is over, give your child a chance to do something good and praise them for it. Talk openly about the virus, and remind them that you care, and assure them that they can talk to you anytime. And keep making fun activities together,” states WHO.