This quote by Mr. Rogers “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.”, is such a great quote and so applicable these days to help provide comfort and optimism for children during difficult times.
But what about the kids whose parents are the helpers during this pandemic?
The kids who’s parents are nurses and doctors, the medical staff at the hospitals taking care of patient’s and now those affected by the coronavirus and being exposed daily to patients with the virus. This can be terrifying to their children, naturally they are worried about their parents getting sick.
While other parents are working from home and trying to multi-task their roles of parent, managers or employees and even teachers, these parents are working non-stop and can not be home with their children to comfort them in these stressful times.
These parents are not just helpers they are real-life superheroes. “Not all superheroes wear capes”: they wear face masks, scrubs and stethoscopes.
The truth is these superheroes are also scared and stressed just like the rest of us and they are having to be so brave.
This is not the time to be modest, you have earned your title and my suggestion is we use it to help your children through this. As is the case with all my parenting tips, the first step is self-care, whatever that may look like for you.
Here are some tips on how “the helpers” can support their children:
- Talk to children about the virus in a developmentally appropriate way, germs causing some older people to get very sick, lots of coughing. You might want to look for some helpful youtube videos for kids.
- Children learn through play. Use toys to show them what you are doing, bring out the doctor kits and stuffed animals.
- Choose a superhero they are familiar with and talk about what they do, their superpower and their enemy. Then explain how in this situation you are a superhero, your superpower including ways you protect yourself and the enemy is the coronavirus.
- Give them a “job”, so that they can feel like they are helping too. Some examples are: have them write get well notes, draw pictures for patients, their families and the medical staff.
- Share pics of you in your “Uniform”.
- Allow time for free play, this how children process tough situations.
- Whenever you are home, take some time to reset and then spend at least 15 minutes of one on one time with each child.
- Do not assume they understand. They have access to the internet and as we know not every source is reliable. Also, they talk amongst themselves and share inaccurate information. Take the time to explain the pandemic, reasons for social distancing, share some of your specific job responsibilities and especially precautions you are taking.
- Have a trusted adult check-in on how they are feeling about being out of school, away from friends and if they are worried about academics. Validate their feelings and empathize.
- Brainstorm with them. If your teen is home alone, help them come up with things they can do at home, what they always wanted to do but haven’t had time to do before.
- Encourage exercise, home gym, bike rides, going for runs or walks, going to the pool, reading or lounging out in the backyard instead of just their room. (They do need to be reminded of these options).
- Make a list of ideas and tasks.
- This might be a good time to be more lenient on gaming time limits. Encourage FaceTiming over texting with friends. Netflix offers movie nights, allowing viewing with friends remotely.
- Encourage interaction with family or caregivers available in the home, meal times together, get them engaged in setting the table or making meals.
- Keep up to date on announcements made by the school system. Clear accurate information helps ease anxiety.
Remember nothing is more important than your child’s mental health, avoid pressuring about academics during this time especially. Technically, they are on spring break. If they happen to have virtual classes, help them schedule breaks to include snacks and movement.
Expect some behavior changes in your child as they adjust to all of the changes occurring in their lives. Kids might experience sleep difficulties, fatigue, irritability, crying easily, withdrawal, or difficulty focusing.
However, if these behaviors are persistent and you are concerned, please reach out to a mental health professional. There are therapists available to help and most are offering Telehealth (virtual counseling) allowing for safe, secure and remote access to support. Telehealth sessions are as effective as in-person sessions.
I am trained as a Board Certified Tele-Mental Health provider, I am licensed in the state of Florida to provide Telehealth sessions anywhere in the state of Florida. As of Monday, March 16, 2020, I transitioned my practice completely to telehealth and I am providing online sessions to families with children of all ages and college students. I am here to help, contact me for more information.
Thank you for all that you do.
You are my superheroes!