Children around the world become vulnerable to risks posed by the current COVID-19 outbreak. Besides possibly contracting the virus, children may likely be affected by other harmful factors such as disrupted education, loss of income for parents due to the enhanced community quarantine, and other negative triggers to their emotional, social, and physical well-being which can result in a great amount of stress for young people especially the school-aged kids.
Helping children cope with stress during the COVID-19 outbreak
It is important to talk with children about the coronavirus (COVID-19). Here are guidelines on how to help children cope with stress during the virus outbreak1.
1) Children may respond to stress in different ways such as being more clingy, anxious, withdrawing, angry or agitated, bedwetting, and others. Respond to your child’s reactions in a supportive way, listen to their concerns and give them extra love and attention.
2) Children need adults’ love and attention during difficult times. Give them extra time and attention. Remember to listen to your children, speak kindly and reassure them. If possible, make opportunities for the child to play and relax.
3) Try and keep children close to their parents and family and avoid separating children and their caregivers to the extent possible. If separation occurs (e.g. hospitalization), ensure regular contact (e.g. via phone) and re-assurance.
4) Keep to regular routines and schedules as much as possible, or help create new ones in a new environment, including school/learning as well as time for safely playing and relaxing.
5) Provide facts about what has happened, explain what is going on now and give them clear information about how to reduce their risk of being infected by the disease in words that they can understand depending on their age. This also includes providing information about what could happen in a reassuring way (e.g. a family member and/or the child may start not feeling well and may have to go to the hospital for some time so doctors can help them feel better).
Many children are worried about and feel afraid of the coronavirus, these fears are exasperated by disruptions to their regular everyday lives, such as school and kindergarten closures. They wonder whether they can get ill or how they can avoid catching the virus. It is important to talk to kids about the COVID-19 outbreak to avoid fear and make them feel safe.
For added information on COVID-19 precautionary measures and proper healthcare practices, visit the Department of Health Official Facebook Page.
- Lifted from the World Health Organization Handbook, “Helping children cope with stress during the 2019-nCOV outbreak, Download PDF