The news cycle is dominated with stories about COVID-19’s rapid spread and far-reaching economic impacts, and children’s normal routines have been completely disrupted by the indefinite closure of schools. Though parents and caregivers may struggle to communicate with their children during this uncertain time, one West Virginia University school counseling expert says that transparent communication between caregivers and their children is key in mitigating children’s anxiety about the pandemic.
Christine Schimmel, associate professor and program coordinator of the School Counseling Program at the College of Education and Human Services, recommends that parents be open with their children about current events.
“If your children ask questions, try your best to give accurate information without providing in-depth details that might frighten them,” Schimmel said. “Statements like, ‘we are doing our part by staying home to try not to spread the virus to your classmates and our older citizens’ tend to be helpful.”
To temper anxiety and fear about the pandemic, Schimmel advises that parents and guardians limit the amount of television and social media usage in their homes during this uncertain time.
“I would encourage parents and caregivers to do their best to not express fear and panic in front of children, especially young children,” Schimmel said. “One way to reduce levels of stress and anxiety in all of us is to turn off the TV or reduce access to news via television or social media.”
According to Schimmel, parents and caregivers should make sure their children have ample opportunities for exercise and play while they’re home from school.
“Committing to allowing your children to get fresh air and exercise can help them ease anxiety and stress,” Schimmel said. “Many children can process their fears and concerns through their play. While play dates are discouraged, letting children play is still an important coping skill.”
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