Panic is just as contagious as viruses

Its the talk at recess

It’s the talk at school

It’s the talk in the halls

It’s the talk in the grocery stores 

Instagram, Headline News, TV,  ALL Social Media

Disneyland closed and other popular events are cancelled 

Schools, Sports, church etc. closed

We’re all feeling the impact of the coronavirus and trying to navigate through the change and the curveballs with it. For many, this activates anxiety about the uncertain future.  How will I work? What if I or someone I love gets sick?  How long will schools be closed? How long will this all last?

Our kids are watching and listening. Our kids are getting anxious, and those with anxiety, it can make their struggles worse. You may be feeling worried about the spread of the coronavirus, COVID-19. Given the widespread media attention of this illness, that is understandable. While there are practical ways to avoid getting sick and prepare for an emergency situation, there is also an emotional way to prepare for uncertain times.

Recently, my mom went to the grocery store, was told it is important to take necessary precautions and stock up on water, toilet paper and other supplies in case the virus spreads family. Isles were pretty empty, so she stocked up on as many cases of water store limited along with other items as she could. She was stressed and worried that I or one of my four kids will catch this virus, mainly because all my kids have asthma and other immune system sensitivity.  I reassured her of all the facts to ease her mind and reduce her anxiety.

Working at one of my schools doing Speech Therapy, I had a student who is only 11 years old who broke down in tears in one of our sessions, she shared her worries and emotions about the virus and all the BIG “WHAT IF’S”…. thoughts she was having.

This led me to create this blog and share suggestions HOW to address the big “what if’s” with our kids and give them some knowledge on what they can do today and the facts to help reduce worry and anxiety.

 

Provide them with facts and what you can do to keep yourself and your family healthy…

CDC is responding to an outbreak of respiratory illness caused by a novel (new) coronavirus. The outbreak first started in Wuhan, China, but cases have been identified in a growing number of other locations internationally, including the United States. In addition to CDC, many public health laboratories are now testing for the virus that causes COVID-19These types of events are serious and concerning, but worrying doesn’t help.

Tips To Practice Emotional Health, Stay Healthy & Calm

EXTERNAL PREVENTION: Let’s start with the external things you would normally do to protect yourself (and others) from any virus that is spread by respiratory means.

1. Teach Hygiene and Minimize close contact with people who are sick.
2. Keep your hands away from your eyes, nose, and mouth as much as possible and wash your hands frequently, especially when you’re out and about. Not touching our faces.
3. Stay inside and don’t go out if you’re sick with cold or flu-like symptoms. Getting enough sleep.
4. Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue and dispose of tissues properly. Sneezing/coughing into our elbows.
5. Although we don’t know if this virus lives on surfaces for long, be mindful about cleaning and disinfecting surfaces that could have been infected with an environmentally friendly cleaning spray. Using wipes to disinfect surfaces.
6. The CDC and WHO do not recommend face masks for anyone other than health care workers caring for those with known infection

INTERNAL PROTECTION: Practice Emotional Health daily…Treat the mind-body-heart-spirit connection. And studies have shown that increased levels of anxiety and stress can weaken our immune systems.

  1.Deal with any panic you might feel in an emotionally healthy way, allowing yourself to move through the emotion without getting stuck in it. Work through the fear and anxiety you have around the coronavirus to be helpful and supportive to others.

 2. Connect with loved ones. Love heals. Surround yourself with people you love and trust and enjoy the boost of endorphins, oxytocin, dopamine, and other healing hormones that can help you fend off viruses naturally.

 3. Try Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT) Tapping without the needles..It is powerful holistic healing technique, it calms the nervous system and allows the body to relax. I found tapping about the virus helped me feel calm and the news surrounding it. If you would like to try it, contact me by replying to this post, I would be happy to Tap with you and be your guide to support you in releasing any anxiety that you are feeling about the Coronavirus or any other topic that is causing you stress. You can also download a free EFT meditation APP to release anxiety on the virus by Tapping Solution. You can visit The Tapping Solution.  

Tips when our children come to us with their “WHAT IF…” Questions?

Emotions are triggered, everything from fear and anxiety to uncertainty rattles through our brains, but what is true? While we cannot control others spreading the virus, and certainty can’t control the media’s we can control and choose how we respond.

Talk to your child about the event, your child may have heard misinformation from friends, the internet, social media etc. Therefore, its important to first ask your child what he/she heard, so you can understand what narrative they are playing in their minds.

Once you have heard their information, you can correct any misinformation and decide how much more they need to know, or maybe they’ve heard the main points and this is enough.  They do not need to hear every detail.  Understanding why this event happened (to the best of our knowledge) helps them to make sense of it.

6 Tips what to say to your child (but first…work out any worry you have before talking to your kids. and model staying calm…) 

  1. Validate our child’s feelings. (Begin with what they already heard)

Example:  “I can see that you’re feeling worried about this flu.”

2. Go over the facts.

Example:  “It’s true there is a bad flu virus spreading right now, but schools and the health officials are very prepared for it.” Respond reassuringly to any fears your child is worrying about and correct rumors that aren’t true (“No, it’s not true that everyone who gets the virus dies; in fact most people get a mild flu and recover quickly.”)

3. Help our child stay in the present (as What If ‘s are about the future).

Example:  “We feel very badly for the people who have the Coronavirus, but we need to stay in the present, and “those with this virus are in the hospital and is being cared for by the doctors.”

4. Explain that there are things within our control and things that are out of our control.

Example: “This flu virus is happening out there in the world, but worrying if it might come to our community or family does not help us and our community and the health officials are very prepared.” Focus on what you can control and that is helping elderly who get it or donating supplies as needed.

5. We can explain that when similar things have happened in the past, a solution has been found.

Example:  “We’ve had other bad flus before (Ie. SARS, H1N1) but each time, the medical professionals have got the flu under control and it taught them a lot about how to handle future viruses.”

6. Go over facts and statistics as well as misinformation they have heard. Use valid resources provided below 

Example: “There are approximately ….cases and only…got the Coronavirus, so the chances of getting it are unlikely” keep a healthy mindset in time of concern (stop, breathe, and evaluate the facts.) Focus on what you can control.

For some children, going through these steps will satisfy them and they won’t continue to ask more questions or express more worries, but for other children, they will continue to ask more questions based on worry.

What If My Child Continues To Ask “What if…” Questions?

  • If your child continues to ask “What If…” questions, it’s important to try to stop this cycle as it feeds the worries.
  • Try to “switch the channel” to a happier place by doing an activity together, reading a story with them, doing some exercise together go for a walk, hike or jogging etc.
  • Model being calm, if you seem worried or anxious, your child will pick up on your nervous energy
  • Laughter changes the body chemistry, reducing stress hormones, and will help your child’s fears melt away.
  • Brainstorm and create a list of enjoyable things to do together at home (cooking, games, projects etc.)
  • Turn off your TV, it manifests their fears especially the news.

Use discussions with your child as an opportunity to reassure and give age appropriate information (By Aha Parenting!)

  • You are safe.
  • Grownups have got this covered.
  • Children and grownups who are otherwise healthy have immune systems that are able to fight off this virus, so we won’t notice it or we will just get something like the flu.
  • Lots of smart and capable scientists and health workers are keeping the virus contained. We are lucky in this country to have an excellent health system.
  • Our job now is to make sure that we don’t unwittingly spread the virus, so it’s more important than ever that we develop good health habits, like washing our hands so we don’t transmit germs.
  • If we can stay healthy, that reduces the spread of the virus and lets health care workers focus on helping others who are more vulnerable.

School-age kids and preteens may have questions you can’t answer, about pandemics and global spread. It’s okay to turn together to the internet for information, but choose responsible sources like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, who will have a measured, non-alarmist approach.

With younger children, if you don’t know the answer, tell them “That’s a good question. I’m not sure what the answer is. But let me find out for you!” Then look it up without your child there, so you can frame your answer in a reassuring way, once you have the facts.

Be aware that all humans find it hard to tolerate uncertainty, so your child may well ask a lot of questions about what will happen. It’s fine to say you don’t know, but remember that underneath those questions is usually worry, so be sure to reassure your child that this virus is no match for the humans who are working to contain it.

Valid Resources:

It’s important to notice where you are getting your information about this issue. Make sure your sources are trustworthy. So, for instance, the CDCWHO, and Scientific American can be counted on to be non-alarmist and helpful.

Here’s a fun comic from Malaka Gharib of NPR, that helps you explain the Coronavirus to kids: Malaka Gharib’s Corona Virus Comic for Kids. There’s even a link to print it out and fold it into an ezine.

Fact sheet from the USA Center for Disease Control.

Until Next Time, Happy Parenting

Tabatha Marden

 

Tabatha Marden
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