Worries about the pandemic can have an effect on children.
Since March, adults around the world have been dealing with the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic.
So have children.
As a pediatrician, I hear firsthand of the impact worrying about the pandemic is having on kids emotionally. Here are some things to remember:
• Keep in mind that younger kids are feeling fear about illness and death – not just for themselves, but for their loved ones. Be sure to talk with them about it and reassure them.
• Limit exposure to the news. Kids don’t need to stay on top of the latest facts like adults do and it just heightens their anxiety.
• Try to keep some semblance of routine. Recreate structure within your “new normal.”
• Remember to use the term “healthy” instead of “safe.” The term “safe” can bring thoughts of danger to mind.
• Get up and move. Every day, try to get at least an hour of exercise or activity with your kids.
• Watch for signs of anxiety – irritability, tantrums, excessive whining, isolating. It’s a sign you need to talk with your child and provide some reassurance. If it goes too far, call your pediatrician.
• Encourage frequent video chats with loved ones to decrease your child’s fears about the health of their loved ones.
• Be positive! Reassure children with information about the measures we are taking to stay healthy, such as hand washing, wearing masks and social distancing.
• Keep an eye on any special needs children of all ages in your neighborhood or family circle. These kids are not receiving their usual support services and parents may need some help coping.
• Adolescent kids have lost their all-important peer interactions, and their disrupted schedule can result in poor sleep and diet.
• Watch more closely than usual for changes in your teen during these uncertain times, including extreme changes in sleep, energy levels, personal hygiene, feelings of sadness or anger, or loss of interest in friends or favorite activities.
• Finally, don’t forget about you. As parents, now challenged with teaching their children and coping with the loss of church and other supportive activities and services, it’s important to find ways to relax, unplug, refresh and reinforce mind, body and spirit.
Anne Zomcik, M.D., is a Saint Vincent pediatrician at the AHN Health + Wellness Pavilion – West Side.