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Recommendations from the Experts:  How Parents can best help their child

There is a flood of articles suggesting what you should say to parents. In aggregate these include:

1. Your emotions will impact your children. If you are calm and reassuring your children will be better situated to deal with any of their own anxieties. Limit media exposure as it is likely to heighten their anxieties.

2. Make yourself available to talk with your children.  Don’t assume that they are reacting in aa particular way and instead ask open-ended questions, such as “how are you feeling about all of the stuff that is going on? About the changes in your life?”  Enquire about their feelings. If they have trouble identifying feelings work with them to learn to label and express how they are feeling.  This will have a beneficial impact beyond the current situation.  This chart from Hemot  can be used with younger children.

3. Treat their concerns respectfully so that they feel validated in approaching you and sharing their perceptions. Respond with information that is age and developmentally appropriate and gently correct misperceptions.  Don’t overwhelm them with information.


4. Provide opportunities for them to take action and make decisions. Are there opportunities for them to make choices about eating, school work, activities, or the timing that they do things?  What direct actions can they take that relate to the pandemic? Can they help you make a healthy menu that supports staying healthy? Face-time with older relatives that they are separated from? Make messages of support for essential workers that are supporting your community? Raise money for charities or food banks?  How can they feel empowered rather than constricted by this experience?  

5. Children who have mastery of a skill or a particular talent tend to feel better about themselves and show greater resilience to stressors. What interests to do your children have that can be focused into a skill or talent development activity? Use this time to let a child develop deep mastery or explore multiple areas of interest.

6. Children process events differently as their cognitive and emotional skills grow. Recognize that this experience, and in particular the loss of loved ones due to the virus, is an event that they will need to re-process as they develop. Expect and encourage further discussions over the long term if they need to re-integrate this experience as they mature. 


For more information on these recommendations see the original articles listed below. Feel free to copy the above and add your own suggestions or comments in a personalized letter to parents.  

J. Dym Bartlett, J Griffin, & D. Thomson, Child Trends 

  1. Understand that reactions to the pandemic may vary

  2. Ensure the presence of a sensitive and responsive caregiver

  3. Social distancing should not mean social isolation

  4. Provide age-appropriate information

  5. Crate a safe physical and emotional environment by practicing the 3 R’s: Reassurance, Routines, and Regulation

  6. Keep children busy

  7. Increase children’s self-efficacy

  8. Create opportunities for caregivers to take care of themselves

  9. Seek professional help if children show signs of trauma that do not resolve relatively quickly

  10. Emphasize strengths, hope, and positivity

National Association of School Psychologists (NASP)  

  1. Remain calm and reassuring

  2. Make yourself available

  3. Avoid excessive blaming

  4. Monitor television viewing and social media use

  5. Maintain a normal routine as much as possible

  6. Be honest and accurate

  7. Know the symptoms of COVID-19

  8. Review and model basic hygiene and healthy lifestyle practices for protection

  9. Discuss new rules or practices at school

  10. Communicate with your school

  11. Keep explanations age appropriate

AJ Willingham, CNN

  1. Don’t wait for children to come to you

  2. Ask questions about how they are thinking and feeling

  3. Keep information simple and useful

  4. Validate their concerns

  5. Structure time at home

  6. Tell them what is being done to keep them safe

  7. Empower them to make healthy choices with you

  8. Keep yourself informed so that you can be a trustworthy source

  9. Be compassionate

  10. Follow up

Erin Wilkey Oh, Commonsense   

  1. Talk about it

  2. Focus on the facts

  3. Build critical-thinking and news literacy skills

  4. Model and encourage media balance

  5. Stay active and have some fun

  6. Support parents and caregivers

S. Gibson, Hull   

  1. Self-regulation – share accurate information

  2. Recognition of feelings

  3. Sense of hope and community

Matt Ray, 

  1. Remain calm

  2. Answer their questions

  3. Give facts in a developmentally appropriate way

  4. Opportunity for quality time

  5. Recognize traumatic impact of school cancellation – loss of structure and sense of safety

Christine Carter, Greater Good 

  1. Create some structure around work and school at home

  2. Connect with your clan

  3. Embrace not having to be somewhere else

Jacqueline Sperling, Harvard Health

  1. Provide just enough information

  2. Model calmness about Co-Vid 19

  3. Limit news exposure on the new coronavirus

  4. Keep an eye out for reassurance seeking

Deborah Farmer Kris, PBS   

  1. Share age-appropriate facts and correct misinformation

  2. Reassure them that they are safe

  3. Emphasize things your families can do to be safe

D. Raccanello, G. Vicentini, R. Burro, V. Barnaba, E. Rocca, & E. Dal Corso, University of Verona

  1. Helping kids identify feelings

  2. Strategies for coping with feelings

  3. Strategies for seeking and giving support

  4. Focus on what is important

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