Marty Hernandez, LCFL Children’s Bereavement Coordinator, provides insight into understanding the anxiety and stress children may experience in connection with COVID-19. Marty provides tips for parents to help their children cope with their anxiety.
I’m Marty Hernandez. I’m the children’s grief counselor coordinator with Lower Cape Fear LifeCare.
Part of my job there is to help families with children talk about difficult things, and what we’re all experiencing now with a coronavirus, COVID-19, outbreak is a difficult time.
So, I’m hoping to offer some suggestions to families with kids about how they can create a safe moment or safe place within their day to talk about what’s happening.
When I was a kid, I think my mom was probably really good at creating these moments in our day when something difficult was going on.
I can remember sitting on this sofa that we had in this great room with her, and her giving me her full attention and talking to me in a calm voice honestly about different things that were happening in our lives.
She was using her body language and her tone to communicate to me that it was a safe place, and that what was going on, just the fact that she sat there with me, told me that what was happening was worth taking a moment outside of our lives to sit down and talk about.
And, she was also communicating to me that I was worth taking a moment outside of our lives to sit down and talk about what was happening.
It is important to allow kids to express all the different feelings that they may be having. Sometimes we have a tendency to cheer children up and when we do that we might unintentionally be communicating to them that it’s not okay to express sadness or fear or anxiety.
These feelings are really natural right now, and to be able to say them out loud or express them in some way actually lessens our anxiety.
If you talk with kids and are good listener, and pause and have some moments of quiet, you may allow them to have questions surface, and voice questions that they have about what’s happening. That is really helpful.
It’s good to have conversations about the questions, whether you have answers or not. As a matter of fact, it’s really to be able to say to kids, “I don’t know. I don’t have the answer to that. We’re not sure about that yet. Maybe we’ll know next week, but we don’t know now.”
When you give them those kinds of honest answers, you’re modeling to them that it’s okay to live with uncertainty. That we don’t have that all the answers right now, but we can say that out loud. We can go on with our lives and there are a lot of things we don’t know, and that’s just okay.
I think one last thing to remember about kids is they have a lot of natural resiliency, and they’re already coping in many ways that they themselves may not realize.
So, asking them what they’re doing to help themselves? What helps them to calm down? what’s working in their day?
Those are worthy questions to ask and very helpful to them.
We’ll just remind everyone that there are moments when things are working all right and that we have this natural resiliency inside of us to cope with difficult times.