How to Stay Calm and Put Your Child’s Fears at Ease about COVID-19

By Diana Ruiz Elzaim, M.D. F.A.A.P

As a pediatrician and mother of two children, I am certain that during the coronavirus (or COVID-19) pandemic many children are scared and confused about the changes that have unfolded in their daily lives.  There is really no way to avoid the discussion surrounding the topic, especially when our lives are now so intricately connected in a digital world and we are practicing social distancing.  It is also challenging when screen time is dominating more of our time while staying indoors.    As a parent you want to dispel myths and provide the reassurance they need to help them manage any anxiety they may be feeling but not fully expressing. The following is a list of some tips that you may consider:

Put their minds at ease.

Let your kids talk about their worries or fears and then reassure them that you are doing everything you can to protect them.  Let them know that most schools are closed at this time for precautionary measures to keep them safe.  Reassure them that not everyone will get the coronavirus but everything is being done so as few people as possible get sick.

Distraction is very important.

It is very important that we keep our little ones and “big ones” distracted at this time.  Spend more time playing board games, camping in the backyard, coloring, drawing or even playing video games with your teens. Fun and laughter is a great tool to help them forget about things.     Our kids don’t need to hear the news on a daily basis; therefore limiting the use of mobile devices is paramount at this time.  Social media has also become a big platform for news and can bring another element of anxiety to our children.

Try to maintain normal routines.

This is especially important for children who are no longer attending school.  Keeping their usual school schedule is very important and many of our schools are working hard to provide an online platform to complete assignments at home.   This will allow them to return to school in the future with only a few or no interruptions in their learning plans. This is also a great time to remind them to complete their chores daily, enforce their regular bedtimes, and eat meals together as a family. Remember to give your children lots of affection.

Remind them to practice healthy habits daily.

Teach and remind your children to wash their hands frequently, avoid touching their face and avoid people who are coughing, sneezing or otherwise sick.  For our little ones, we can even sing a song to encourage them to wash and make practicing good hygiene fun!  Although many school and public parks are closed to avoid crowding, remember to spend some time outdoors with your little ones.  Allow them to ride their bikes in the community that they live, kick a ball, or play catch with siblings.  There are so many ways to stay active with your children.  Other examples include jump rope, jumping jacks, and Zumba. These are great forms of cardio to stay healthy without visiting a gym or a park.  Your teens can also become creative and perhaps have many tools with our digital age.  Many online platforms exist that allow us to stay healthy without stepping one foot in a gym J

Dr. Ruiz Elzaim is a board-certified pediatrician at PSJA ISD Sotomayor Women and Children’s Health Center.  Asthma, allergic rhinitis, neurodevelopment and newborn care are among her top clinical interests.