Five GREATNESS Strategies to Survive the Coronavirus with Kids

Five strategies to cope with the effects of the Coronavirus on kids and families.

As the Medical Director of a Children’s mental health clinic and practicing Child Psychiatrist, we are seeing an upsurge in anxiety in children and parents reaching out for help. Children mirror the emotional state of others around them. It may be hard for the grown-ups to feel calm right now as we are in uncharted territory. Yet it is vital we grown-ups become the helpers our children need right now to help them feel physically and emotionally safe during this time of change. So, Mom and Dad, take a deep breath into your heart and say “I’ve got this!”

Let’s help foster calm and love over fear right now while at the same time, taking necessary precautions as directed by our local health departments and government. Families you will be having more time together in the coming weeks with school closings and possibly working from home. Here are some ideas to not only survive the Coronavirus pandemic, but to chart a new course which fosters greater family connection which can be continued long after the virus has passed. Make family time GREAT with the ideas below:

 1.Get out into nature. Go outside in the fresh air. Take barefoot walks on the earth if weather permits. Put your hands in the soil if possible. The healing energies of the earth are stabilizing. Put up a fort or tent in the backyard and have some camping fun. Plant a garden.

2. Reassurance. Children are very unlikely to have more than a mild course of illness which is not dangerous unless the child has an underlying medical condition which can compromise their immune response or trigger a severe asthma attack. While it is true that many children will contract the coronavirus and be a potential danger to adults who are vulnerable, children need first and foremost to be reassured that they are not in danger. Many children will worry about their parents and older relatives. This is an opportunity to congratulate them on the greatness of their empathy and concern for others and how their actions like hand washing can contribute to the greater good for all. Remind them that there are always helpers. As Fred Rogers said, “Look for the helpers.” Help them feel like a helper who is making a positive contribution. 

3. Eat. Spend time together eating as a family without distractions Make food together and learn about how food supports a healthy body. This is a perfect opportunity to teach children about the connection between food and health including our mental health. Stock up on healthy food choices that are non-perishable like nuts, seeds, nut butters, beans, and protein powders. 

4. Activities. Bring out the cards and board games. Do a jigsaw puzzle. Read books together. Have a dance party with kid friendly music. Meditate together with kid friendly meditations easily found on apps and you tube. Make a family collage together. Learn a new language. Play the Greatness Chair. There are so many creative ideas out there on the internet and these are just a few. The point is to spend time together in a relaxed supportive way with full attention. Turn your phone off and enjoy each other. In this crazy, fast world we are being given an opportunity to slow down. Lets’ take advantage of it!

5. Teach What a perfect time to teach life skills. Have children participate fully in household chores at an age appropriate level along with coaching. Make it fun and demonstrate how many hands make light work. Maybe this is the time to clean out and organize rooms that have been begging for attention! Children want to feel needed and useful and so rarely are given an opportunity to do it these days. Children shine when they feel they can be truly helpful.

We are all being asked to up our game as we see how interconnected our world has become and how we need to support one another. Keep your heart alive with courage, hope and joy as you reconnect to your family circle. 

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Kathleen Friend MD, Child Psychiatrist and author of the Greatness Chair. www.greatnesschair.com

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