The growing concerns about COVID-19 are certainly present in the media, social conversations and thoughts of most Ontarians. The information we have is being used to make ever-changing decisions as parents and organizations about how best to keep people safe. In addition to all of this information, there is also an abundance of strangers and perhaps even fears.
Children and youth with anxiety disorders may be particularly concerned about information about COVID-19 in and around the media. It would be much more beneficial to them if the information were presented in a calm, structured and realistic manner. In this perspective, for many children, the most reassuring way to manage this information is in conversation and in relation to a parent or guardian.
The COVID-19 situation is constantly changing and the information can be confusing, so as a parent, what do you say and do?
Start by educating yourself. You can find current information on symptoms, prevalence and current recommendations from your local public health unit or the Ontario Public Health Unit ( https://www.publichealthontario.ca/ ). The World Health Organization and the Government of Canada also provide large-scale updates. Remember that choosing responsible sources of information shows your child how to make good choices when it comes to media and information gathering.
Focus on the most relevant details and / or the things that you and your child can control. Limit conversations with or around your child about things that he cannot control or cannot help (for example, loss of wages from parents, a family friend who has traveled, a friend from class that may have been exposed, etc.)
Limit routine changes as much as possible. Routine allows for predictability, which can be beneficial for people with anxiety disorders. When it is not possible to maintain the routine (school closings, cancellation of activities, etc.), think about the structure that you can offer. Consider supporting your child with an individual routine that includes activities such as learning opportunities, personal care activities, and physical activities. Remember to add something that helps bring joy to your child every day .
Share the information in the most concrete way possible. Tell them about the ways you and the other adults around them keep them safe! Review good hygiene practices and, if appropriate, make these habits fun games. If they want to discuss the number of cases, the statistics they have heard, the economic impact, the political fallout, etc., help them ensure they have a reliable source. Take the time to justify their concerns with your words and your attention.
Correct the wrong information Help your child / adolescent get the facts. Ask them what they know about Coronavirus and what they "heard" (from friends, media, family, etc.) Take the time to help them talk about it and encourage them asking yourself any other questions they may have rather than going to the Internet, the media or visiting friends. BE HONEST! And respond in a way that takes into account the child's age.Worry will not help them, but being confidently prepared and "armed" with accurate and timely information can help. It is best to avoid statements such as "Don't worry" or "Everything will be fine". You can assure them that you and the other adults around you are doing everything you can to help them and their loved ones stay safe and healthy.
For children / teens who do well with pictures, help them remember what they can control like washing their hands regularly, practicing social distancing and limiting touch to their faces. (Monitor children for any increase in these unnecessary behaviors - such as excessive hand washing, persistence in risk factors, fear of leaving home, etc.)
Strategic exposure to current events. Finally, but not least, limit exposure to unnecessary information / activities that cause anxiety. This probably means limiting exposure to social media, newsletters and newspapers. This may be more difficult with older children / adolescents; however, this may be the perfect time to work with your child or teenager to practice sound information management, a skill that is particularly important for people who experience anxiety.
“Anxiety makes us overestimate the risks and underestimate our ability to cope with them. "...
“The goal is to help your child realistically assess the risks based on the information available. »*
'Brains On' (A Podcast for kids) - Understanding Coronavirus and how germs spread
WHO Infographic - Helping children cope with stress during the 2019-nCoV outbreak
MPR News - Comic about Coronavirus for Kids - based on an NPR interview
Psychology Today - Article: How to talk to Kids and Teens about the Coronavirus