Helping Children and Teens Cope with COVID-19 News

March 17, 2020

By Dr. Kyle John, Mercy Kids

Children, teens and even young adults are particularly affected by the intensified uncertainty of our current global health crisis.

Those who have already experienced mental health challenges will likely struggle the most. It is vital that we come together, as parents and caregivers, to offer each other support, without judgement.

Our children need us now more than ever.

Tips for Managing Mental Health

  1. Give children a chance to express and feel their feelings. Children have their own ways of expressing upsetting feelings; sometimes they become withdrawn, irritable or angry. Help children find ways to express disturbing feelings, such as fear and sadness. Reassure them that these feelings are appropriate under the circumstances. According to World Health Organization, “children feel relieved if they can express and communicate their disturbing feelings in a safe and supportive environment.”
  2. Children feel the safest when they are with family and caregivers. If separation is necessary, ensure that regular communication is maintained, such as phone or video calls and other age appropriate communications
  3. Maintain as many familiar routines in daily life as possible. Children do better when they know what to expect. Structure and routine help children feel safe.
  4. It is common for children to seek more attention and feel more attached during times of stress and crisis. This is a time for reassurance, so take the time to comfort your children when they seem demanding.
  5. Be honest but provide facts. Give your children age-appropriate information about the virus and address their concerns.
  6. Children will pick up on the emotions and cues of adults around them. Pay attention to what your children are hearing. Talk about it honestly and avoid dismissing what they may have heard.
  7. Monitor your children’s social media and screen time. Constantly checking for updates on the coronavirus can increase anxiety. Instead, engage your kids in fun activities, such as playing games or reading.
  8. "Put your oxygen mask on first," so to speak. Take care of yourself. Pay attention to your own stress levels. Exercise, eat properly, drink plenty of water and keep regular sleep routines.

If you are feeling overwhelmed with emotions such as sadness, depression, anxiety, or feel like you want to harm yourself or someone else, call 911 or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255).