Children and youth have unique vulnerabilities during any disaster. The Coronavirus Pandemic has punctuated these needs. How a child or teenager responds to the pandemic may depend on their age and level of development. Understanding the common emotional and behavioral warning signs and how to support your child or teenager can be vital to their recovery.
The Coronavirus Pandemic has brought several disruptions to the lives of children and youth. A child’s world is typically composed of experiences at school, home, community, and with their peers. Changes to all these important areas can be traumatic. Paired with a lack of predictability for the future, parental distress, and fear related to losing a loved one, the Coronavirus Pandemic continues to stir up a child’s world.
Children and youth are at high-risk of having a traumatic experience due to the Coronavirus pandemic. The involvement of family and surrounding community support such as school personnel, physicians, and mental health professionals is crucial in supporting a child and youth through the challenges during and after a disaster. Some warning signs of a child and teenager experiencing trauma include:
- General fear and worry
- Difficulties falling asleep and/or nightmares/night terrors
- Difficulties separating from parent(s)
- Loss of skills such as toileting, independent play, etc.…
- Imaginary play and reenactments of the trauma accompanied with intense negative emotion
- Difficulties with sleep
- Withdrawal and guardedness
- Anger and irritability which may be communicated through behavioral outburst and other forms of “acting out”
- Risk-taking behavior (including experimental or increased use of alcohol and drugs)
There is hope… Restoring safety for a child and older youth is different. However, the foundation of each involves understanding, attention, and support. Consider the following ways to intervene as a parent, guardian or caring adult:
- Reassurance can be found in time spent comforting, engaging in play and simply being present
- Establish a routine that is predictable and contains structure, rules but allows space to express emotions
- Build a tolerance toward regressive emotions and behavior- this is normal
- Follow the SAFETY
- Model flexibility and communication
- Provide love, support, and listening no matter how difficult it gets
- Normalize their emotions and response to an abnormal event
- Balance being available with respecting their privacy
- Encourage finding friends or other trusted adults to share thoughts/feelings
If you need a little help and support as you work to figure out how to help your children cope with COVID-19, call the NY Project Hope Emotional Support Helpline: 1-844-863-9314, 7 Days/Week from 8am-10pm.