Even though children are less likely to contract COVID-19 than adults, they are just as susceptible or even more susceptible to being emotionally affected by it.
Here are some practical steps parents and church leaders can take to help children stay calm during the turmoil the pandemic is causing.
It is obvious that our everyday lives have been changed. School cancelled. Restaurants closed. Sports events cancelled. Church services moving online.
Children function best when they have a consistent schedule and structure. When these things get disrupted, children can struggle.
Keep their routines in place as much as possible. With the current pandemic that can be a challenge since many, if not most, schools are currently closed indefinitely. This means you may need to bring in some other every day routines that you establish with your child. You can also stay consistent with dinner time, family devotion time, play time, bed time, etc.
Understand that children often watch the actions of their parents and other people who have authority in their life. They can sense when the people in their life are stressed out and worried. They will pick up on these feelings.
It is important to not only keep children safe physically, but for their emotional well-being as well. Children's reactions will vary from child to child. Some will be clingy. Some may require extra attention. Some may have difficulty with sleeping and eating.
Be empathetic. Be patient. Be calm. Be supportive. Be caring. Validate their feelings.
Keep the child connected. Social distancing is okay, but social isolation for a child is hard.
Make sure you keep them close to you and look for creative ways they can connect with others through writing letters, online chats, phone calls, etc.
Give them age-appropriate information. Tell them the truth in age-appropriate ways. Be available to answer their questions and listen to their concerns. There are also lots of great resources online that can help you present information to children at their age level. But make sure you keep it balanced. Kids don't need to be constantly exposed to news playing in the background through the TV or other technology.
Reassure children that you are there to help keep them safe. Tell them they can come to you anytime they are experiencing anxiety or fear and you will help them.
Keep them busy. Don't make them sit in their room all day. Provide fun activities like art, music, playing in the backyard, Legos, etc. The busier you keep them, the less stress they will experience. When kids are bored, they are more prone to worry about the pandemic.
Stay positive. Remind them that Jesus has promised us that He will never leave us nor forsake us. No matter what may come our way, we can lean into His grace and goodness.
If you need more help as you go through this season of uncertainty, contact your local church. They can provide you with help or point you toward professional services if needed.