Helping kids cope with coronavirus


HAMPTON ROADS, Va. (WAVY) — We are all living in a stressful time right now, and not just adults. Children can be overwhelmed with emotions.

Some may be tripping you up with unexpected questions or outbursts, while others may be bottling it up.

10 On Your Side talked with Vice Chief of the CHKD Mental Health Program Dr. Mary Margaret Gleason for some tips.

“Some children will become more quiet some will have more disruptive behaviors and again parents know what the normal is and so they want to be looking for differences,” Gleason said.

Here are some red flags to look for:

  • Big changes in eating or sleeping
  • A child who stops participating in normal family activities
  • Talking about wanting to die

These children may need to talk with a professional — others may just need to talk, in general.

“There is a place for grief and it is absolutely appropriate to be sad, angry about the things that are lost,” Gleason said.

Gleason said that is especially true for high school seniors.

Parents should acknowledge their feelings and be honest with kids,  of all ages.

“We don’t need to overload children with information but we want to make sure that they know its ok to talk about it It’s not a secret, it’s not so bad that it can’t be spoken,” Gleason said.

A 5-year-old, for instance, may ask if you’re going to die from coronavirus. Gleason said parents should tell them the truth: people are getting sick and that we’re all working to keep our community and your child in particular healthy by washing our hands and staying away from big groups. 

“That kind of response gives children information that’s relevant to their lives right now and also gives them something to do and we all feel better when we have an action,” Gleason said.

Taking action for teens may be a group fundraiser, donating blood or getting involved with a political action group. Just remember, Gleason advises to practice what you preach.

“I think it’s important for parents to be modeling what a healthy response is. Again, no one is going to be doing it perfectly but doing our bests,” she said.

Gleason said coping can get more difficult for kids as time goes on. If you become concerned, call your pediatrician. Mental health practices are open, mostly doing telehealth appointments.

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