IN THE KNOW: Professor Sarah Blunden gives advice on how to help children deal with the COVID-19 crisis. Pictures: File
IN THE KNOW: Professor Sarah Blunden gives advice on how to help children deal with the COVID-19 crisis. Pictures: File

How to help kids who may be anxious about COVID-19

Children may lack the cognitive capacity to process the threat they sense about COVID-19 but there are ways that adults can help them manage anxiety.

That’s according to CQUniversity’s clinical psychologist, Professor Sarah Blunden, who is Head of Paediatric Sleep Research,and heads a paediatric sleep and psychology clinic, based in Adelaide.

“Feelings of worry and unease can be expected following a stressful event, such as the recent declaration of a global pandemic, however, it is important that we learn to manage our stress before it turns to more severe anxiety and panic,” Professor Blunden says.

Professor Sarah Blunden.
Professor Sarah Blunden.

“We as adults need to be able to also manage the anxiety for our children.

“Children will inevitably pick up on the concerns and anxiety of others, whether this be through listening and observing what is happening at home or at school. It is important that they can speak to you about their own concerns.

“Children do not have the cognitive capacity to process the threat that they sense about this virus.

“This is of course is more prominent in children who already have a predisposition to anxiety.

“Anxiety and stress can manifest in many ways in children, including acting out, being aggressive, not obeying the rules, low frustration tolerance, over reacting and becoming easily upset.”

Dr Blunden has suggested some ways to help reduce anxiety in children:

  • Constant media coverage about the coronavirus can keep us in a heightened state of anxiety. Try to limit related media exposure.
  • Provide opportunities to answer their questions in an honest and age-appropriate way.

Let them know that feeling scared and anxious is very normal and it can make them feel sad, and even angry.

  • Anxiety is often the result of feelings about lack of control.

Giving children control over their immediate environment is helpful such as making sure they learn how to wash their hands properly, keeping them and their ­family safe. Explain to children what you will do if you feel sick so that they know that there is a plan and a thus a certain component of control in this situation.

Having a plan is very important when we feel out of control.

  • Make sure children know that many, many people recover from this virus.
  • Ask children what they can do to make themselves feel better. Children need to feel that their opinions matter that their ideas may be helpful especially when it comes to the health of the people they love.

What things make them happy, how can they help you, what happy pictures can they draw and give to someone?

  • Help them to keep in touch with friends and especially family.
  • Become a model for calm behaviour.


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