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Helping your child cope with the COVID-19 Pandemic

IACP COVID-19 tips & help

by IACP Accredited Member Joe Heffernan

Children may be impacted by the pandemic by in a number of ways. It is important to realise that children pick up on stress and so become stressed themselves. They may fear being infected or having parents or loved ones becoming or being ill. All the media coverage about the pandemic, which is unavoidable, may lead to some common and predictable reactions. Many reactions will get better naturally with extra support. Parents and other caregivers play a key role in the recovery process. Many children's reactions are based on parents and caretakers reactions. Remember to model healthy coping which children will copy/pick up on. Common reactions may include:

• Fear of the event- of the virus happening to them or their family

• Difficulty sleeping or nightmares

• Changes in eating habits

• Becoming irritable or angry in a way that is not typical for the child

• Other mood changes that are not typical, like being much more emotional than usual

• Problems concentrating

• Expressing feelings about the pandemic in play or art.

• Physical complaints like headaches or stomach aches

• Acting younger than before (regression )

Parents and caretakers play an important role in the support that is necessary (or resilience. Children can and do "bounce back" from traumatic events. Below are a few ideas about how to help a child cope with their reactions to the pandemic:

• Discuss what is happening honestly, but simply. Avoid overwhelming with information

• Monitor children's reactions over time...they may change as time goes on

• Ask the child what they are thinking and feeling about what is happening

• Listening is key! Avoid discounting or minimizing feelings

• Let them know that it is Ok to feel and react

• Maintaining a daily schedule while at home can help support and stabilize stress reactions Normal routines help.

• Talking, writing, and art are ways children can express their reactions. Encourage this

• Answer questions that your child asks in age-appropriate ways

• Provide reassurance about fears and safety. Remind them that what is being done to keep them safe and encourage them to do the things are recommended to have an active role in protecting themselves (depending on their age and ability)

• Remind your child that this is not an everyday event and that there are people who help make the community safe (Doctors, Nurses, Healthcare professionals, etc.)

• Monitor and limit your child's exposure to media coverage of the event

• If you have concerns about your child's reaction to this event, seek professional information and support.

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