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Tips for Parents and Caregivers: Interacting with Children about COVID-19

Tips for Parents and Caregivers:
Interacting with Children about COVID-19

The health and safety of our community is our priority. We know the amount and changing nature of the information you have and continue to receive can be confusing and overwhelming. Our goal at United Way of Greater Portland is to share resources, best practices, and information in the days and weeks ahead. Below are resources and recommendations that have been curated to help you know what to expect, how to prepare, and what to do regarding COVID-19. We are an incredibly strong community and even in the midst of challenge it is how we react and pull together that sets us apart. Working together we can weather any storm. Simply put, we are better together. We are one UNITED Greater Portland.

Get the most up-to-date and accurate information here:

Talking to your kids

  • Discuss in an area that feels comfortable and safe and encourage them to ask questions
    • Validate their feelings
    • Utilize drawing or other activities to help them express their emotions
  • Discuss, practice, and celebrate preventive behaviors
    • Washing hands for 20 seconds with soap and water while singing A-B-C song
    • Covering mouth and nose with a tissue or bend of the arm when coughing or sneezing
  • Discuss what they have viewed on the Internet and clarify misinformation. Minimize exposure to media outlets or social media that might promote fear or panic.
  • Clarify that not every cough or sneeze means someone has COVID-19
  • Communicate that COVID-19 is spread through person-to-person contact so it is important to wash our hands and avoid touching our faces.
  • Communicate that their school is closed because all adults at the school want them to be safe and healthy, and scientists recommend avoiding crowds or large gatherings.

Check-in with your children’s school on Available Resources:

Do you have materials on hand?

  • Basic health supplies (e.g. soap, hand sanitizer, tissues, thermometer)
  • Supply of regular medication taken by yourself or family
  • Medication for chronic conditions
  • Drinking water and non-perishable food
  • Cash
  • Activities for children: books and games
  • Batteries as needed

Create a list, accessible to adults in the family and your children, of helpful community and family resources

  • Family doctor number
  • Children’s school number
  • Extended family or friends contact number
  • Community mental health centers – call 211, text your zip code to 898-211, or email info@211maine.org
  • Local crisis resources – visit  https://www.maine.gov/dhhs/hotlines.shtml
  • Websites to check-in on

Develop a plan for regular communication with friends and family either via telephone or internet in case of a quarantine

Daily activities

  • Maintain consistent home schedules including bedtimes and meals
  • Help your family engage in fun and meaningful activities consistent with your family
  • Continue to eat healthy foods and drink a lot of water
  • Get some exercise
  • Attempt to control self-defeating statements and replace them with more helpful thoughts (https://arfamiliesfirst.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/Cognitive-Distortions.pdf.) remembering you are a role model for your children

Are you worrying?

  • Set a 3-minute timer. During this time, think about the worries all you want. When the timer goes off, worry time is over! Get up, move to a new space, and start a new activity!
  • Take some time to sit and slow your breathing. Slowing inhaling and exhaling 5 times.

Age-Specific Advice on Stress/Worrying:

Age Group

Reactions

How to Help

Preschool

  • Fear of being along, bad dreams
  • Speech difficulties
  • Loss of bladder/bowel control, bed-wetting
  • Change in appetite
  • Increased temper tantrums, whining, or clinging behaviors
  • Patience and tolerance
  • Provide reassurance (verbal and physical)
  • Encourage expression through play, reenactment, story-telling
  • Allow short-term changes in sleep arrangements
  • Plan calming, comforting activities before bedtime
  • Maintain regular family routines
  • Avoid media exposure

School Age (ages 6-12)

  • Irritability, whining, aggressive behavior
  • Clinging, nightmares
  • Sleep/appetite disturbance
  • Physical symptoms (headaches, stomachaches
  • Withdrawal from peers, loss of interest
  • Competition for parents’ attention
  • Forgetfulness about chores and new information learned at school
  • Patience, tolerance, and reassurance
  • Play sessions and staying in touch with friends through telephone and Internet
  • Regular exercise and stretching
  • Engage in educational activities (workbooks, educational games)
  • Participate in structured household chores
  • Set gentle but firm limits
  • Discuss the current outbreak and encourage questions. Include what is being done in the family and community
  • Encourage expression through play and conversation
  • Help family create ideas for enhancing health promotion behaviors and maintaining family routines
  • Limit media exposure, talking about what they have seen/heard including at school
  • Address any stigma or discrimination occurring and clarify misinformation

Adolescent (ages 13-18)

  • Physical symptoms (headaches, rashes, etc.)
  • Sleep/appetite disturbance
  • Agitation or decrease in energy, apathy
  • Ignoring health promotion behaviors
  • Isolating from peers and loved ones
  • Concerns about stigma and injustices
  • Avoiding/cutting school
  • Patience, tolerance, and reassurance
  • Encourage continuation of routines
  • Encourage discussion of outbreak experience with peers, family (but do not force)
  • Stay in touch with friends through telephone, Internet, video games
  • Participate in family routines, including chores, supporting younger siblings, and planning strategies to enhance health promotion behaviors
  • Limit media exposure, talking about what they have seen/heard including at school
  • Discuss and address stigma, prejudice and potential injustices occurring during an outbreak

Source: The National Child Traumatic Stress Network

Have a great resource that you’d like to share? Contact us at info@unitedwaygp.org.

Page Updated: March 16, 2020