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How Do You Help An Anxious Kid Right Now? Tips For Talking About Coronavirus

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Talking to anxious kids about coronavirus can be tough.

COVID-19 has changed all of our lives and put us on a path of uncertainty. Some people are dealing with losing their jobs, others worry about caring for their elderly loved ones. All of us are wondering what happens next. 

And what about kids? After the thrill of missing school has worn off, reality sets in. Play dates are canceled. Sporting events are postponed. As parents, we want nothing more than to comfort them, and reassure them that everything is going to be alright. 

D. Jill Ehrenreich-May is a Professor of Child Psychology and the Director of the Child and Adolescent Mood and Anxiety Treatment Program at the University of Miami. She spoke to WLRN about how to talk to kids about coronavirus.

She has the following advice for parents, and wants them to know that not having an answer is perfectly ok:

  • Don't guarantee total safety and security
  • Don't pretend you have an answer when you don't 
  • Don't keep the news on 24/7
  • Do give simple instructions to kids: wash your hands, don't put your hands in your mouth, cough into your elbow
  • Do use effective responses to anxiety. “For example, if your son or daughter is feeling anxious or tired of being cooped up, you could say something like, ‘why don't you call a friend and talk on the phone? That's what I do when I feel like talking to someone else.’ Or, ‘why don't we go for a walk around the neighborhood? That's what I like to do when I am tired of being cooped up.’”
  • Do use this moment to encourage your children to show gratitude, kindness and empathy. Activities such as letter writing, or even calling an older relative who may be feeling lonely, could make a big difference.

Ehrenreich-May has more tips for parents on her https://vimeo.com/channels/1547281">Vimeo channel. She also recommended checking out the coronavirus resources available at the Anxiety and Depression Association of America website.

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