Managing Stress at Home During the COVID-19 Pandemic

By Colleen McCabe, MSN, CRNP

Ask, Listen, and Reassure

  • Ask your child how they are feeling in regards to the current situation.  Children handle stress in many different ways. Allowing your child to express their feelings may give better insight on how to reassure and calm them down. Younger children will be affected in different ways compared to an older child, which makes it even more important to talk to your children individually. 
  • Children look to their parents for reassurance.  They will react similar to how you react.  Keeping adult conversations positive around the children is important to reduce panic.  If you panic, your child is likely to panic. 

News and Media

  • Limit the amount of COVID-19 news your child is watching as best you can during this time.  If a child is hearing news throughout the day related to the pandemic, they are more likely to become anxious.
  • Remind your older children to look for credible sources of information in regards to coronavirus updates. The CDC website has the most up to date and credible information.

Schedule and routines

  • Children of all ages like predictability and routine; it helps to reduce the stress of the unknown.  Making a schedule for your child to follow during the week is important.  Allow time for schoolwork, exercise, meals, creative time and play time.  Older children can make a schedule for themselves that best fits their day. 
  • Set aside time for your child to FaceTime their friends, write letters to their family members, or make art projects to drop off at grandparents’ houses.  Socialization is a major part of a child’s development. Continue to encourage your child to keep in touch with friends and family.

Activity suggestions

  • Include your children when it comes to meal preparation. Allow them to help in the kitchen and brainstorm meal ideas.
  • Create dinner themes such as meatless Monday or taco Tuesday in order to keep a predictable routine for your children. This may help your meal prep as well.
  • Your family may have fun dressing up for a “Formal Friday” dinner. 
  • Play a re-run of an old baseball game and cook hot dogs on the grill as a family.
  • Music is great therapy for children of all ages. Many music studios are offering free music on their websites or on Facebook. Check them out!
  • Make time on weekend nights for older kids to have a family game night where you can do board games, card games, or puzzles. Use prizes or incentives for the winner to encourage participation.

Concerns

  • Encourage stress reduction by doing yoga, meditation, and journaling with your child. Check out Calm or Headspace apps for guided meditation.
  • Remember, things will not look perfect at home all of the time during this pandemic.  You are doing the best you can with the resources you have at home. Take each day one at a time.
  • If you have serious concerns about your child’s mental health at any time during this pandemic, please reach out to our office at 215-728-7711 so we can discuss and direct you further.

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