The world can seem like a scary place, especially when we are able to receive news
updates almost instantaneously. It may be easier to distance ourselves from tragedies or major
world events when these events are happening thousands of miles away. This becomes
significantly harder when we are dealing with things that impact our way of life directly. It can cause us to feel like we have no control over the situation. I am sure we have all been watching the news regarding COVID-19 (“Coronavirus”), and often this news is quite alarming. We hope to see  more positive reports, but these seem hard to come by. During these times of uncertainty,
it is important to not overreact but to be proactive in our daily habits. Below are tips on how to
remain calm during the COVID-19 (Coronavirus) pandemic.

How to Talk to Your Children

When thinking about the major life discussions one may have with their child, talking to
them about a pandemic does not rank high on that list. Discussions regarding COVID-19 can
leave parents at a loss for words. Most want to inform their children of the seriousness of this
disease. However, parents must take care to have developmentally appropriate discussions.

I have always considered that honesty is the best policy. Still, the honesty must be given at a
developmentally appropriate level. “Brutal honesty” should be avoided. While it is a delicate
balance, parents must try to be reassuring while still being honest.

For younger children, parents should indicate that there are many sick people in the world
right now and that  there are many doctors and nurses doing their best to make them feel better.
Also, I would stress the importance of good hygiene habits now and in the future. A video on YouTube
(video included below) provides a great age appropriate demonstration on how fast
germs can spread. It is important for parents to model proper hygiene, especially if
children will be out of school for extended periods of time.

For older children, I would continue to stress the importance of lifelong proper hygiene
habits. Talking with older children should feel more like a conversation to relieve any worries.
Even if they do not express it, children regardless of age are worried about COVID-19. It is
important that parents are the calm place children can go to express their worries. The National
Association of School Psychologists (NASP) offers resources to parents, in several languages, on
how to talk to children about COVID-19. Parents are suggested to review the resources when
talking with their children.

How to Talk to Your Child’s School

Across the country, we have seen entire states cancel school. This can cause parents to
feel stressed regarding childcare and how children will gain access to their work. In addition,
this is more of an issue for students who receive free/reduced lunch and special education
services. Many school districts have released information regarding food services for families in
need. It’s difficult to remain calm when schools, restaurants, and businesses are closing and events
are being canceled.

It is important for parents to gain as much information as possible on how their child will
receive assistance during this time. Knowing this information can help you remain calm.
Even though school districts will be closed, essential personnel may still be working to
make district level changes and decisions. Parents are encouraged to call their child’s
school or school district main number for questions. Also, your school or district’s website
might be updated frequently with useful information. Your school/district might be
sending frequent email updates to help you and your family navigate this crisis. In addition,
parents should ask if any outstanding projects/assignments will be due before or
when children return to school. This will help alleviate any stress for children returning to
school.

We Are All in This Together

If COVID-19 has taught us anything, it is that we are more alike than unlike. This disease
has impacted individuals of every race, gender, religion, socioeconomic status, physical ability,
and political affiliation. It does no one any good to place blame on others during these times.
When talking to children of all ages it is important to stress that COVID-19 was not caused by or
affects a single group of people. If time permits, now would be a good time for children to learn
about the main geographical areas impacted by COVID-19. It would be educational and
rewarding for children to research the history and culture of these areas. Hopefully, this will
help children to develop a sense of empathy for their fellow neighbor. NASP also provides
parent resources regarding racism and stigma as it pertains to COVID-19. Parents are suggested
to review these resources, which are listed at the end of this blog, and to use them as conversation starters.

Take Care of Yourself to Remain Calm

The most important thing we can do is to take care of ourselves. While hygiene is very
important, especially now, it is important to manage your stress and anxiety levels. I am sure we
have seen footage of individuals fighting in grocery stores over toilet paper and water. That
does little to reduce our anxiety. If you find yourself or your child feeling anxious, do your best
to positively reframe the situation.

The best thing we can do for ourselves is to put things in perspective. If you find yourself
coughing or sneezing, a positive way to reframe the situation is to ask yourself was this a
random occurrence or allergies? Yes, this time of year is very difficult for those with
seasonal allergies. If someone sneezes or coughs in public, it does not automatically
mean they have COVID-19. It is important to know the specific symptoms of COVID-19
in order not to panic over simple bodily reactions to the environment. According to
the excellent resource, Our World in Data, the top 3 symptoms are fever (87.9% of cases),
dry cough (67.7% of cases), and fatigue (38.1% of cases).

As part of self-care, I suggest turning off the news and news alerts on your electronic devices.
Seeing a constants stream of new reports of COVID-19 cases does little to relieve any anxiety. At
least for the next month, we should be spending more time indoors and practice social distancing.
Use that time to connect with yourself and your family.

The Takeaway

In conclusion, these are very uncertain and potentially scary times. However, using these tips on how to
remain calm during the COVID-19 pandemic can help you make it through this a bit better. Remind
yourself that there are top medical professionals around the world working to combat COVID-19.
Know that these professionals have studied and trained for situations like this. Also, realize that you are not
alone in your worries or fears.

It is important to listen to the advice of professionals even if our daily lives will be affected. The best way we can
reduce the spread of COVID-19 is to take care of ourselves, heed the recommendations of reliable resources like the CDC,
wash hands frequently, and practice social distancing. As difficult as it is, we must try to remain calm. Most people
will not contract COVID-19. For those who do, the vast majority will not experience severe symptoms. However,
we take this pandemic seriously because our our positive actions will help the more vulnerable populations.

Resources:

1 reply
  1. Zoe Campos
    Zoe Campos says:

    I totally agree that proper hygiene habits should be exercised at all times and not just with older children. COVID-19 is in every state and no one is safe until they take precautionary measures. I also hope that disinfection should be required in both commercial and residential properties in order to avoid the spread of the virus.

    Reply

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