Helping Children Cope with COVID-19 Fears
One year ago, the COVID-19 pandemic entered our lives. No one expected COVID-19, the highly infectious disease caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus, to have the impact that it did.
Families dealt with many changes due to the coronavirus outbreak, including sick loved ones, home schooling children, loss of jobs, and possibly the death of family members. The impact of COVID-19 was felt among all of us.
However, it is important for us to think of the effect that the COVID-19 health crisis has had on children. The impact of stress on children during a crisis is sometimes overlooked because we as adults think children are resilient to feelings of anxiety and uncertainty.
Resilience is a protective mechanism that begins to develop in childhood and is enhanced across the lifespan. Because children are in the processes of building resilience, they respond to stress in different ways.
Children may become withdrawn, have difficulty sleeping or experience mood swings. They may be anxious about contracting the virus or losing family members who may be infected with the virus. All these feelings can negatively impact their social interactions, school performance and overall mental health.
To positively assist our children through this pandemic and prepare them for future crises, we need to practice positive emotional responses. We need to have an open conversation with our children about their anxieties and fears associated with COVID-19 to reassure them that they will be all right.
It is our responsibility to find ways to make children feel safe. For example, we can talk to them about their worries as a family and encourage social interactions with their friends.
We need to look for and find positive pieces to this pandemic. By enhancing their positive emotions, we strengthen children’s emotional strategies for coping. Having positive coping mechanisms will protect children’s mental health for any future crisis.
Dr. Roberta Durk, DNP, is a clinical assistant professor and director of the UTEP School of Nursing’s Pediatric Nurse Practitioner program. She has been a certified pediatric nurse practitioner for 10 years. She has taught at UTEP since 2016.