Life certainly looks and feels more different than it did a few weeks, even a month ago. And as a parent, you have probably realised it is not just you that is being impacted by these changes. You might be noticing that your child is asking you lots of questions, looking for more play and physical affection, having more ‘meltdowns’, pushing the boundaries, crying more or seeming less bubbly than usual.
Whatever you have noticed, it is a signal that your child is trying to understand and cope. Just like the rest of us. And just like the rest of us, they will need a bit of extra support at this time. Some ways to help you child include:
- Reduce pressure and expectations, on yourself and your child.
- This COVID way of living is all new and we are having to adapt quickly with little preparation. You are a not a superhuman or a robot who can do it all and do it all perfectly. As a parent, give yourself a break. Remind yourself you are doing the best you can, with the knowledge you have in what is a completely unknown situation.
- Similarly, your child is not a superhuman or a robot who can just keep functioning how they were previously. They may be more upset, frustrated, and confused. Helping them to learn effective ways of coping with these unpleasant emotions and to personally grow from this hard time is what resilience is.
- Talk with your child about COVID and the changes that are happening.
- Be honest and provide age appropriate information. You can even use YouTube to help (e.g. search COVID social story), just make sure you watch the videos first and choose one that is appropriate for your child. Click here for a link to a Wiggles song about social distancing to get you started!
- Encourage your child to be flexible, i.e. that we can do things in lots of different ways, and at the moment we have to do lots of things a bit differently. Demonstrate this principle to your child through activities such as colouring a picture in with the ‘wrong’ colours, changing the rules to games, combining games to make new ones, driving a different way to the shops, having a crazy hair day, etc.
- Connect with family and friends.
- Use the time you have as a family to connect and establish stronger relationships. This doesn’t mean having to spend every waking minute next to each other. Rather, set aside some time every day or every week to do something enjoyable as a family or spend some one-on-one time with your child.
- Talk with your child about loneliness and normalise that it is sad when we can’t see our friends. Use a YoutTube video or a book (e.g. The Invisible String by Patrice Karst) to help explain that they are still connected even though they can’t play. Set up online or phone play dates for your child. Help them to stay connected to their peers and to others outside of the household.
- Have fun. It is very likely your child is missing their favourite activities. This is a normal response and this needs to be communicated to your child. Explore ways that they can still engage in their preferred interests, e.g. playing the same board game over the phone with a friend, learning how to juggle a soccer ball, improving basketball shooting skills, taking a drawing class from youtube, etc.
Click here for a fact sheet that provides some more tips on supporting children and young people to cope with COVID-19. Please note the fact sheet is from Victoria and the phone numbers or listed services may only be accessible by families living within Victoria.
If you are wanting more support for yourself as a parent or for your child during this stressful time, why not give the Centre for Effective Living a call on 1800 832 588?
Jessica Buster (M Clin Psych, Grad Dip Prof Psych, BA Psych Hons) is passionate about creating a caring and safe space to promote effective working relationships. Jessica applies evidence-based interventions in a client focused and collaborative manner to assist children, young people and their families move towards their goals of growth and wellbeing.
Jessica’s clinical training and experience has equipped her with skills in the assessment and treatment for mental health issues. She has gained experience working in roles across non-profit, hospital and private settings. This has included working as an Applied Behaviour Analysis (ABA) Therapist and roles at Guardian Youth Care, Headspace, Westmead Children’s Hospital Psycho-Oncology, and Healthy Minds Happy Kids.
Across all her roles, Jessica has pursued her interest in working with children, adolescents and their families experiencing a range of mental health difficulties including anxiety, emotion regulation difficulties, behavioural difficulties, social difficulties, and disability. She has been able to promote understanding and engagement with these clients by integrating a sense of fun and creativity into treatment.