“Lo, children are an heritage of the LORD: and the fruit of the womb is his reward.” — Psalm 127:3
What about the children?
Do you know where your children are? Are your children at home by themselves? Are they at the grandparents’ house? Are they safe? How are they feeling? Are they acting different?
Everyday life has changed for most people, and children are keen observers when they see change. They are not going to school. Their parents might be at home and not at work. They are hearing discussions about food, home, and safety. If adults are stressed and worried, imagine what the children are experiencing.
Signs of change
Are your children behaving differently than normal? Different children react differently to changes in their environment and increase in anxiety. Change in behavior is a normal response to change in environment. But it is also an indication for you as an adult that your children may need help.
- Here are some signs of stress you might notice in your children. These could serve as indications that they need your help.
- More irritable
- More clingy
- More aggressive
- More passive
- More demanding of extra attention
- More difficulty with self-care
- More difficulty in sleeping
- More demanding about eating food
- More distracted and moody
Caring for the Children
The current reports indicate that children are at low risk compared to adults due to exposure to COVID-19. But that is their physical well-being. What about their emotional and mental well-being? And what can you do to help them?
Here is a summary of 12 recommendations being made by child experts.
- Be prepared and available for children to ask questions and to share their feelings with the 3 R’s (reassurance, routine, and regulation). Reassure them of their safety and the safety of loved ones. Maintain routines (bed time, meals, learning, and playing) to give them a sense of safety and predictability. Acknowledge that fear is normal, and encourage children to participate in regulation (exercise, play, singing, chores) in order to control their feelings and stress.
- Don’t be secretive. Just be appropriate. Withholding all information is usually more stressful for children than telling the truth in age-appropriate ways.
- Limit children’s exposure to media coverage, social media, and adult conversations.
- Help your children find books, websites, and other activities on COVID-19 that present information in child-friendly ways.
- Share success stories about how people are overcoming difficulties.
- Pray with your children for personal safety, comfort, and likewise for others.
- Encourage children to help be attentive to safety guidelines (age-appropriate) such as washing hands, helping to cook and freeze food, or encouraging older adults and sick friends with art and friendly notes.
- Kids are great at staying in touch through phone calls, text messaging, and videos.
- Take advantage of this time with your children to build positive experiences and memories by engaging in family activities.
- Show empathy and patience to your children when they react to the stresses in the environment by calmly setting limits when needed.
- Remember, parents and caregivers must take care of themselves too. Social distancing does not mean social isolation. Stay in contact with families and friends; get enough rest; and take time to exercise, read, walk, and pray.
- Can others help? Of course. Grandparents can be a great resource. Even if they can’t visit, they can talk and suggest ideas. “Children’s children are the crown of old men; and the glory of children are their fathers” (Prv 17:6).
Experts say that most children eventually return to normal when they receive consistent reassurance that they are and will be safe and taken care of. This will make your life easier too, even if it is not normal.
Child Trends and the Child Trauma Training Center at the University of Massachusetts
Dr. Briney is the father of 2 beautiful, grown girls and the proud grandfather of 2 very, active boys.