If you know me at all, you know how obsessed I am with my nieces and nephews. That’s definitely been one of the hardest parts of quarantine for me….not being able to snuggle them or squeeze them!
To my surprise, Brooke, one of my oldest nieces, has taken the quarantining and social distancing pretty hard. Get this…she’s only THREE! I never would have expected that social distancing due to the Coronavirus pandemic would affect her—she’s young, she still gets to play all day, her parents are working from home now, how hard can it be?—but, it certainly has. She has cried for her friends from school, acted out a little more than normal, and even resorted to hanging out with some imaginary friends. She asks, “When can I see my friends?” at least once a day.
This made me realize that no matter how hard we as adults may think this is, we must remember that our children and teenagers are feeling it, too.
Norma Honeycutt, the Executive Director at Partners in Learning, has a master’s degree in Child and Family Development and a long history—46 years!!!!—of working with kids and families. After talking with Norma on the phone for just about twenty minutes, I can see just how lucky Partners in Learning and many Rowan County families are to have her leadership!
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Partners in Learning has had to shift many of their standard practices. Norma says they have been using a lot of social stories to teach the kids they serve about wearing masks, temperature checks, etc., which helps kids have a sense of control. They have also been letting them spend more time outdoors, making sure to keep a consistent schedule, and lowered the number of children per classroom so that teachers have less children to tend to, helping them meet their social-emotional needs better.
But even with all those adjustments, she says that the impacts on children due to the Coronavirus pandemic are many.
“We’re seeing our children being a little more anxious, which can be exhibited through behaviors, whether they’re more whiny, aggressive, or just have emotions all over the place due to the changes and uncertainties they are facing. Children can sense when their parents are anxious or unsure of the future. Some are also fearful they, or their families, will fall victim to COVID-19.”
So, in order to combat these changes and uncertainties, Norma graciously offered some tips for our community’s families on how to help children (and teenagers) cope with the changes they are already experiencing and will continue to experience due to COVID-19.
Helpful Tips & Tricks to Manage COVID-related Anxiety & Stress for Kids
- Limit what they are seeing on TV.
“I never watch the news in front of my grandchildren. You always want to shelter the children from the news. That can be scary stuff,” says Norma.
- Limit what they can look at on social media.
If it causes anxiety for you, which I know it does for me, it absolutely effects your children. Studies show that when children are immersed in a virtual world, their emotional and social development is delayed, and one study suggests that children spending more than three hours a day on social media are twice as likely to suffer from poor mental health. (Reference from parenting.firstcry.com.) You know your current newsfeeds are filled with scary articles about the Coronavirus, so theirs are too! Now more than ever, limit your children and teens from social media!
- Teach children how to express emotions positively by modeling how to express emotion yourself.
Norma says, “As a parent, it’s okay to say I am angry that this pandemic is happening and we’re having to deal with it. This teaches kids that it’s okay to be angry… but don’t stop there. Then, show them how you deal with those angry emotions – I go for a walk, take a bath, read a book, etc. Look at what they can do to express their anger in a positive way and give them options.”
- Don’t be afraid to have conversations about their feelings.
“Books are a GREAT resource to use when having conversations about feelings. Ask them questions like, ‘How do you think that character is feeling about that?’ Ask your child if they’re scared and talk about how to cope with those feelings. Children may know and see things that you’re not aware of, so you need to know what’s on their mind. Books are a great way to start the conversation,” Norma states.
- Spend lots of time outdoors.
Nature lowers anxiety for everybody! Try out gratitude walks—let’s see what we can find that’s wonderful! Count your BLESSINGS, not your grievances…especially in front of your kids! Walks and getting outside have certainly been a saving grace for me and my husband during quarantine, and I’m sure your children would feel the same way.
- Focus on the positives!
“Every night at dinner, when our kids were little, we’d have a journal in the middle of the dinner table and each member of the family had to write down one thing they were thankful for. Sometimes it was super small, sometimes it was bigger,” says Norma. What a great way to celebrate the good instead of focusing on the bad. This is definitely a tip I’m going to try out in my own home.
Try and keep a consistent schedule. Norma says that having a consistent schedule is everything for kids! “Have a time you get up every day- don’t let kids sleep until they wake up. Write that schedule out and post it on the wall, so the children know and have control over something in their life. We are all feeling like no one has control right now, but when we have a regular schedule, we all feel like we have some control.”
- Though this is a challenge, see this as an opportunity to spend more time with your kids and your family.
We may never have this much time to just spend in our houses, with our loved ones, again! It really is a beautiful gift when you think about it. Do stuff together as a family that you may not ever have the time to do again. Visit some of the beautiful parks or places Rowan County has to offer like Dan Nicholas Park, Sloan Park, or many others!
Here’s a link to a blog with some great resources on outdoor recreation in Rowan County!
- As adults, put the phone DOWN.
Set limits for yourselves. Anxiety drives us to use our phones more and the more we use our phones, the higher our anxiety is. It is a vicious cycle! Remember, your kids are watching and will do what you do. If you’re always on your phone, you can’t expect them to put theirs away.
1.The most important of all, Norma says, give yourself grace!
“It’s a challenging time, and you’re not going to be the perfect employee/wife/husband/parent every day. Go to bed each night and remind yourself you did the best you could today, and you’ll try and do better tomorrow.”
Try out these tips and tricks in your homes in the coming months to help your kids cope. Don’t forget to give yourself grace—you’re doing great!
As always, stay healthy and happy, RoCo!