CORONAVIRUS (COVID-19): HELPING MY CHILD COPE

This parent tipsheet from CPTS Includes examples you can use at home, and specific tips for parents of children with existing health concerns.

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Parenting a child with existing healthcare needs can be especially stressful during a disease outbreak or pandemic. The following tips can help:

- Keep in touch with your child’s healthcare team. 
They are the best source of accurate information about COVID-19 and how it might impact your child.

- Rely on trusted sources. 
Misinformation can be spread online, even by well-intentioned people. Rely on national disease groups and your child’s healthcare team to answer your questions. Ask your health care team about things that you see online. 

- Check in about health-related worries. 
Your child might be nervous about things like running out of medications. Find out what they know and what they might be wondering or worried about. Provide fact-based reassurance whenever possible. 

- Be sensitive to “triggers” 
Seeing or hearing things about the disease, the hospital, and dying might be especially scary for kids with underlying health issues. Your child’s “triggers” might not be obvious to you, and they might react in ways that surprise you

- Give everyone a chance to ask questions 
If you have more than one child, remember that brothers and sisters may also be worried about their sibling with a health condition. Give them factual, age-appropriate information.

For ANY child and family, the COVID-19 pandemic can be challenging. Here are our top seven tips for parents:

1. Remain calm and reassuring.
Focus on helping your child feel safe. Try to answer your child’s questions using simple words that he or she can understand. Share information that is accurate and age-appropriate. Stay updated about what is happening with the outbreak by getting the most credible information you can.

2. Keep as many everyday routines as possible. 
Establish routines that work for your family. Stay consistent with bedtimes, meals, chores, and exercise. Encourage your child to keep up with schoolwork – this may be in ways that are new for you / your child (and their teachers), like online learning.

3. Help your child feel in control.
Provide choices where possible. Enlist them in creating their daily and weekly schedule, and in carrying out your family plan to stay healthy. Encourage your child to take part in age-appropriate self-care. Help them use their “germ buster” powers: washing hands often (especially after sneezing, coughing, or using the bathroom), not touching their face, and coughing or sneezing into a tissue or elbow.

4. Help your child feel connected with others.
Spend family time doing things you all enjoy. And while you still may need to set some limits on screen and phone time, it is important for your child or teen to stay in touch with friends and family on the phone and online. 

5. Allow your child to talk about feelings and worries, if they want to. 
Let them know that being scared or worried is normal. If they don’t want to talk right now, they might want to write (keep a journal, write a story) or draw a picture about what they are thinking and feeling. Check back in with your child on a regular basis or when the situation changes.

6. Make time every day for stress-reducing activities.
Help your child create a habit with calming, stress-reducing activities they can do every day, such as exercise, deep breathing, or yoga. Find what works for your child – might be an online exercise video, or starting each day writing down what they are grateful for.

7. Take time to deal with your own feelings. 
It’s harder to help your child when you are feeling really worried, anxious, stressed or overwhelmed. Talk it out with other adults – so that you can get some support. While it is good for your kids to see that you are reaching out and staying connected, it might be best to have some of these conversations in private or after your child goes to sleep at night. Stay connected with friends and family on the phone and online.

Additional Resources for Families

More tips and information for parents

Helping children understand the pandemic

Stress and coping tools for kids and teens