Recently, the increase in the number of cases caused by the coronavirus in our country, the pause of education and training, and the many precautionary methods that came with it, have changed our “flow of life that we are accustomed to”. It knocked on our door suddenly and unexpectedly, causing us to make mandatory changes in our ordinary daily routines such as (hugging, going out, and using public transportation, going to school or work).
Identifying that the person has encountered a life-threatening factor, feeling excessive feelings of anxiety and helplessness because of being exposed to or witnessing a bodily threat can be a stressful and even traumatic experience. It is an indisputable fact that this process will affect all individuals. In addition, children are individuals that should not be overlooked and should be emphasized with sensitivity.
General information about children:
- Children are good recording observers. It is very common for them to be affected by these stressful life events taking place around them. Because anxiety and fear can be contagious.
- Not every child may respond to stressful life events in the same way. While some children behave unrelated, we can observe that some children constantly ask questions on this topic. The fact that they show unrelated behavior does not indicate that the child is unaffected by this situation, but may indicate that they react differently to this experience.
- Different responses of children to a stressful life event may be related to their temperament and cognitive development levels.
Nowadays, covering in almost all our conversations, television channels, breaking news, and social media creates global fear and anxiety. Therefore, we need to approach our child appropriately in these steps mentioned below against the virus;
Step 1: Ask your child what they understand when they say Coronavirus.
- What does your child know about this, what information do they have, and what connection they make of this process in their mind?
- Detect how many of them are correct and how many of them are wrong.
- Support the correct information and correct the false information. Make sure the information you provide during the correction be appropriate for your child’s age and mental development stage. Provide adequate information appropriate for their age; do not expect them to make sense of the whole process.
Step 2: Ask your child to express how they feel about what they are saying from their perspective.
- So how does this make them feel? Encourage them to express and share their fears and anxieties by recognizing what this feels like and how they feel.
- Some children are more successful at sharing their feelings. After learning what they know about the coronavirus, it is helpful to talk about how they feel. Especially children under 6 may not know the meaning of feeling. Therefore, questions such as ‘What do you think?’ can be asked.
Step 3: Talking about how the virus can be kept under control.
- Children may feel helpless with their fear and anxiety. At this point, describing situations that are under our control can provide a relaxing effect for children. For example, you can talk about ‘How can we prevent the transmission and spread of the virus?’ In particular, you can remind the rules of hygiene and make age-appropriate explanations about what to do and why.
It is very valuable for both you and your child to continue your routines during this period. In this context, try to keep your sleep patterns and meal times the same as possible before the coronavirus. Taking into account your child’s interests and tastes you can do some activities at home. You can make cakes/cookies together by asking them to help you in the kitchen, if they have an interest in painting or music, you can make time for these activities. You can read a story together, talk about it or act/ animate the story. You can acquire age-appropriate box games and create a family game time.
If you observe that your child’s anxiety and fears increase in intensity and duration, cause sleep and appetite problems and decrease the quality of life, contact a mental health professional immediately.