Maintain healthy habits
Physicians and other adults can tell children “in an age-appropriate way” how the virus is transmitted and what the symptoms are, but it’s important to emphasize that most people who are sick don’t have COVID-19, said Lebowitz.
“I would emphasize that the people who are the sickest are the elderly who are already sick, rather than healthy younger people,” he said.
Lebowitz recommends continuing to follow guidelines on staying healthy, including coughing into a sleeve instead of your hand and regular handwashing.
It’s also important at this time for children to maintain healthy habits – getting enough physical activity and sleep, eating well, and being outside – because this regime will go a long way toward reducing anxiety, said Lebowitz. Deep breathing and muscle-relaxing exercises can also help, he said.
Lebowitz also suggests maintaining a supportive attitude and showing “some acceptance and validation of what children are feeling, as well as some confidence that they can cope and tolerate feeling uncomfortable sometimes, that they can handle some anxiety.”
While accepting that the child could be anxious, it’s important not to encourage excessive avoidance or unhealthy coping strategies. Fassler and Lebowitz agree that children who are overly anxious or preoccupied with concerns about the coronavirus should be evaluated by a trained, qualified mental health professional.
Signs that a child may need additional help include ongoing sleep difficulties, intrusive thoughts or worries, obsessive-compulsive behaviors, or reluctance or refusal to go to school, said Fassler.
The good news is that most children are resilient, said Fassler. “They’ll adjust, adapt, and go on with their lives.”
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