Caring for Kids during COVID-19
By Heather McCaleb, Ramstein Family Advocacy Office
/ Published April 01, 2020
RAMSTEIN AIR BASE, Germany --
The current outbreak of COVID-19 has many people asking questions, and children are no exception. The uncertainty that we are experiencing may give rise to confusion, anger, and other emotions. While dealing with our own uncertainty, it is important for adults to remember that children of all ages are experiencing disruptions in their routine and may feel uncertain and confused.
Children react differently to change depending on their age and it is helpful for parents to keep this in mind. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, children younger than two years old may become a little crankier, cry more, or may want to be held and cuddled more. Children 3-6 years old may return to behaviors they have previously outgrown such as toileting accidents, bed-wetting, tantrums or sleep changes. Children 7-10 years old may feel sad, angry, or fearful of the future. Preteens and teenagers may act out by engaging in risky behavior. They may also start to distance themselves emotionally from their friends and family, which can lead to increased arguing and fighting with parents and siblings. It is critical that parents understand that children are struggling to cope with changes to their routines, and that they will look to parents for guidance and support as they try to understand what is happening.
The good news is that adults can do a lot to help children cope with the uncertainty that physical distancing can cause. Experts suggest that adults can relieve some uncertainty children experience by explaining what is happening using age appropriate language. Children of all ages might receive incorrect information from their peers, so be sure to provide them with information from credible resources. Do your best to tell them how long the quarantine will continue and ensure them that they are safe and the basic necessities such as food, water, and medical care are available.
Although physical distancing is keeping us safe during this time, it is vital that we do what we can to stay connected to others and to encourage our children to do the same. Taking some time to call friends and family, write an email, send a text message, or write a handwritten letter can help you and your children stay connected. Physical distancing and isolation are important to protect our community at present, however it can be stressful for children and adults alike.
We can best support the children in our lives if we keep in mind that there are age differences in how stress and anxiety can manifest. If you notice behavioral changes in the children in your life, keep in mind that they might need a little extra care to cope with the uncertainty they might be experiencing. Meeting those behavioral changes with punishments or discipline may not be the best answer for reassuring children who are dealing with uncertainty. Instead, do your best to reassure children that they are safe and try to spend quality time participating in fun activities to give children much needed positive attention.