Coronavirus Mental Health Parenting Pediatrics

How to Help Children Feel Safe During Difficult Times

April 10, 2020

How to Help Children Feel Safe During Difficult Times

Many families might be wondering about how to talk with their child about COVID-19. You might be wondering how to help your child with anxiety or stress and how to make sure that the disruptions in their lives are minimized as much as possible.

Build Safety Through Routine

The first skill that I want to teach you is about building safety. Building safety includes things like if you have a bedtime routine that you always follow, such as having your child take a bath or shower, brush their teeth, get in their pajamas, and then read a bedtime story, I would say keep doing those things. Morning routines are also important. Likely a lot of morning routines have been disrupted, but it’s important to build a new morning routine with everybody being home. For example, you could make sure that everyone washes their face, gets dressed for the day, eats their breakfast and that all of these things are done before starting school or work. Building routines helps to set the structure for a productive work day or school day.

Rituals are Important for Feelings of Safety As Well

Every family has their own rituals which are things like birthday celebrations, attending church or other religious practices, etc. My advice here would be to keep doing those things even though it may look a little bit different. For example if your family is used to going to church every Sunday at 10 a.m., then on Sundays at 10 a.m. you could gather in the living room and watch a televised Church broadcast as opposed to needing to go to the church building.

Structured Schedules for Children

The last piece is building a structure for your day. A lot of questions that we received have been about how to set up structure and whether to keep structure for teenagers. My advice would be, yes, we want to have structure because structure helps kids feel safe.

I created sample structures for an elementary school-aged child and then one for a middle school and high school age child:.

Sample Schedules

Elementary-aged Child:

9:30 – 10:00 read

10:00 – 10:30 spelling

10:30 – 11:00 animals at the zoo adventure on a tablet/computer

11:00 – 11:30 recess (e.g., walk the dog, dance to music in the living room, explore the yard, run laps in the living room, do yoga for kids to a video)

11:30 – 12:30 lunch

12:30 – 1:00 math

1:00 – 1:30 science

1:30 – 2:00 music/art

2:00 – 2:30 afternoon snack

2:30 – 4:00 tablet/computer free play

 

Middle School or High School Child:

9:30 – 10:00 reading

10:00 – 10:30 writing

10:30 – 11:00 animals at the zoo adventure on the tablet/computer; educational break

11:00 – 11:30 gym (e.g., walk the dog, do yoga, complete a workout to a video)

11:30 – 12:30 lunch

12:30 – 1:00 math

1:00 – 1:30 science

1:30 – 2:00 music/art

2:00 – 2:30 afternoon snack

2:30 – 4:00 tablet/computer free play

4:00 – 5:00 call/text a friend; do a video chat with friends

 

See latest updates around COVID-19 from CHI Health.

For additional questions, reach out to a CHI Health Behavioral Health provider.

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