How to help your child anxious about Coronavirus
By Dr. Coline Stordeur, Dr. Alexandre Hubert, Pr. Richard Delorme (child psychiatrists), and Marina Dumas, PhD (psychologist)
The unprecedented nature of the pandemic caused by Coronavirus Covid-19 has notably resulted in the confinement of the population. This could cause or increase symptoms of stress or anxiety in your child. Here are some tips to limit them.
This is not a fatality, you can help your child!
· Let your child speak. Answer his questions. Do not force the discussion if he does not wish to raise the subject at the moment.
· Check reliable sources (see a list below) rather than social media, to be able to honestly answer children's questions. Before answering them, ask them what they already know about the subject in question and rephrase or complete their information. Make sure your answers are simple.
· Correct misconceptions and fight stigma (for example, avoid terms like "Chinese virus" to refer to Coronavirus Covid-19). It is important that the information is clear to you in order to avoid misinformation.
· Do not expose your child too much to the media and never without an adult by his side to help him decipher what he sees or hears.
· Do not refrain from expressing your feelings too, but avoid emotional overflow. In fact, it is completely normal to be stressed in such a new situation, even for adults. Children feel the stress of their parents and are often more worried about their parents' distress than the situation itself.
· Reassure your child about his own safety: he will receive appropriate care if he falls ill. Children are very rarely severely affected by Covid-19.
· If your child is stressed or afraid, you can also talk to him about his emotions. Reassure him that fear is a normal and natural emotion. Then discuss with him: when does his fear appear? In what way (thoughts, images, sensations in his body)? What decreases it?
· Remember to congratulate your child when you are very satisfied with his behavior (for example: It is very nice to have included your little sister in your game).
Ensure a routine
Blow deeply with one hand on your stomach and invite your child to do the same, feet slightly apart and firmly planted in the ground. In your head, slowly count to 3 and then let the air come in naturally on number 4. Then breathe normally for about 30 seconds. Repeat this sequence 3 times, then breathe normally.
Maintain a link
· Use telephone and/or Internet so that your children can regularly contact their friends and family members.
· Take advantage of home or distance learning opportunities.
· Contact a mental health professional if you notice persistent signs of anxiety and depression in your child, including changes in appetite, sleep disturbances, aggression, irritability, and fear of being alone or removed from family.
· If it is possible for you as a parent to act preventively before symptoms appear or worsen, you can also help your child when anxiety is there.
· Do not deny your child's anxiety, don't brush it away with the back of your hand. It is very real. But do not fall into the opposite excess! Do not center your whole family life on these excessive fears. Continue to live by reinventing a reassuring routine with some pleasant surprises and moments of conviviality.
In summary, take care of yourself and your family.
PS: Some reliable and useful sources:
· Official government page on coronavirus: https://www.gouvernement.fr/en/coronavirus-covid-19
· World Health Organization website: https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019
· Institut Pasteur website: https://www.pasteur.fr/en/medical-center/disease-sheets/covid-19-disease-novel-coronavirus
· Census of cases in France (region by region): https://mapthenews.maps.arcgis.com/apps/opsdashboard/index.html#/827bdf56850d4e3cbeb487cab677ca84
Translated by Stéphanie Antoun (pediatrician)