Caring for children during COVID-19
COVID-19 and everything associated with it has affected us all in different ways, and our children are no different. You know your children best, so trust your instincts and remember that it’s also a time when we might have to cut our children (and ourselves as parents!) a bit of extra slack.
Here are some tips on supporting your child at this time:
- When talking to your child, take into account their age, personality and what you think is going on for them at the moment. For example, if they are really missing their friends, does it help if you talk about them or does it remind them that they are sad they don’t see them at the moment?
- Try to make sure that the information your child gets about COVID-19 and any government restrictions is consistent; that you and other key adults in their lives make sure they are not receiving different information that could confuse them.
- Stick to facts and communicate them calmly, using simple, age-appropriate language. For example if you have a 2 year old, you may just explain to them that it’s important to wash hands well to kill any germs that could make them poorly, but for a 10 year old you would be able to explain this in more detail.
- Talk to them about any worries or questions they have during the day instead of at bedtime so they can get a good night’s sleep.
- Tell them they can come and talk to you if they are worried about things they have seen or heard.
- When they do start a conversation about any worries they may have, ensure you give them your full attention, away from TV or phones. If you aren’t able to do that there and then, tell them that you really want to talk about it and when you can do this (ideally as soon as possible).
- Continue to check in on how your kids are feeling, as this may change. For non-verbal children there will be clues in their behaviour as to how they are feeling. For example if they are worried about the uncertainty around them, they may become more upset at going to bed by themselves and need extra cuddles.
- If you can, try and keep your own worries about COVID-19 to yourself. Children tune in very easily to how us adults are feeling and it can affect them.
- If you feel yourself getting annoyed with your children, don’t be too hard on yourself. This is a difficult time for everyone and there is no manual on how we should be behaving or feeling!
It’s also really important to look after ourselves as parents too. Following government advice, try and stay connected to friends and family who support you, whether that’s with a socially distanced walk in the park or via a phone call. If you feel you are not coping, don’t wait until you feel really bad to seek advice; you should contact your GP for support.
- Relate: a charity that provides relationship support for couples, families, individuals and children in England and Wales. The website has a wealth of information, advice and self-help tools, and access to counselling services.
- If you are worried about your child, parents can contact their local council’s Children’s Services team for some ‘early help’ support – this is not the same as having a social worker.
- The first point of contact for getting help for any issue related to an adult or child’s mental or physical health, is to see your GP. They can refer adults for services such as counselling and can see if children require a referral to the CAMHS Service (Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service).
- MIND provide advice and support to empower anyone experiencing a mental health problem. MIND also operate in Wales.