Pandemic presents unique challenges
Right now living in the time of the COVID-19 outbreak can be very scary or frustrating for anyone, but particularly for children who don’t understand why they have to stay at home, when generally very few of them are sick.
Natalie Serafini, trauma counselor at Loyalsock Township School District, suggests that it is important for parents to allow their children to give voice to their fears.
“Right now, I think it’s important for parents to give their kids some extra time to be able to talk with them about what’s going on and just listen,” Serafini said. “Ask them about what’s going on. Just listen and ask them what questions they have. Have them talk about their feelings about what’s going on.”
Serafini also stressed that it’s important for parents to be really honest about what’s going on and to share information.
“That’s a fine line because if you tell small children too many things it can scare them and actually increase their anxiety,” she said.
What’s important, she noted, is to share information that is developmentally appropriate and factual. Parents should seek information that is accurate.
“We are just so bombarded now with headlines about the virus,” she said. “It’s constantly popping up on your phone, every time you log into social media and every news headline is talking about that. … It’s almost too much information.”
That’s why parents have to be careful not to overload children with too much information so children don’t become overwhelmed and anxious.
“I think it’s important to reassure them that they’re safe and that they’re okay and we’re going to be okay. And, we have to have hope and optimism that we’re going to be able to get through this by working together, staying calm, staying safe and practicing social distancing and good hygiene,” Serafini said.
Maintaining a regular routine is also important, according to Serafini. Just because students are not in school doesn’t mean that there should not be a schedule for them.
“It’s really hard to maintain a regular routine when you have no idea what’s happening on a daily basis.
“Are schools going to stay closed? Are they going to open still this year? Are we going to be online learning for the rest of the year? How long is this going to last and all those questions. I think it’s really hard for adults, too, because when we don’t know things, that increases our anxiety, too,” she said.
She noted that it is important for parents to plan activities for their children throughout the day and allow some free time to relax.
“We have to eat healthy, we have to sleep well and exercise. Those are the three main things for a healthy immune system. And we want to be able to stay healthy right now, especially, for everything that’s going on,” she said.
Serafini did caution parents about letting children watch the news.
“I don’t think that kids need to be the direct recipient of the news,” she said. “I think that it can be filtered through parents so that it’s more appropriate.”