The public health crisis concerning the coronavirus has raised anxiety and uncertainty among people to unprecedented new heights. Panic abounds and amongst those deeply affected will of course be children, for whom the virus may be difficult to comprehend.
The following article gleaned from the US press encapsulates much of the anxiety affecting all of us over here in the UK, and spares a particular thought for the plight of our children. The article offers some useful strategies for allaying some of the anxieties and problems they are likely to feel or experience as a result of Covid-19.
With many schools and church meetings canceled, employees working from home, and daily news reports painting a grim picture of the still-mysterious and spreading COVID-19, life right now feels anything but normal.
Most understand the importance of frequent hand-washing, stocking up on food and staying home if sick.
Dr. Travis Mickelson, medical director of Mental Health Integration at Intermountain Healthcare, said he and his colleagues are seeing many patients come into the clinic with anxiety about the virus. He’s also seeing it among his family and friends.
“I think we’re all concerned and distressed by this rapidly changing amount of information we’re getting about this,” Mickelson said, adding that it’s normal for a situation like this to create anxiety and even depression.
Social distancing “will become part of the vernacular” in Utah “for a long time,” Gov. Gary Herbert said Friday, announcing that K-12 schools in the state will be dismissed for two weeks starting Monday.
In the home, he said it’s important to create an environment where everyone can feel comfortable expressing their fears and emotions about the virus.
“And of course, from a parent’s perspective, the way we approach our children is really based on their developmental level. But I think it’s really important to be honest and open, and be viewed as a source of truth for our kids,” Mickelson said, as well as be “reassuring” to them. “Just keeping it simple, in terms that they understand. And then we just talked about things that we can be doing as a family to stay healthy and be safe. And so I had them help me come up with ideas that we can be doing as a family together,” Esplin recalled.
Kathie Supiano, associate professor at University of Utah College of Nursing and a licensed clinical social worker, agrees that being truthful with children about what’s going on — and why they should do things like wash their hands more — is important. To keep stress at bay, we should “be really careful about social isolation,” according to Supiano. While keeping necessary social distance or staying home from activities — or avoiding visiting parents over the age of 60 — it can be “easy to feel cut off from your community.”
“And so we need to be creative about that. We need to check in with each other frequently. We can do that through technology,” she said.
Connecting with others, especially offering them support during a pandemic can also have the effect of modeling to children “that we reach out to each other in times of stress and anxiety,” she said.
“One of the things that happens when people do stay connected, especially if they feel they’re supporting other people, is that that sensation boomerangs back on them in terms of well-being,” Supiano said. “At first, I think it is important to appreciate that something like this is going to be distressing to us and could likely increase symptoms of anxiety or even depression,” Mickelson said.
For those affected by the cancelation of their means of social interaction, like church meetings or college, staying busy with other activities can help, he said.
Facetime, phone calls, and journaling “can make us feel like we’re engaged, even though we’re physically isolated,” Mickelson said.
People should also limit their exposure to the news, while still staying updated on what’s going on. While consuming news, she said people should focus on finding “truthful” information rather than gossip about the virus. Mickelson said that staying informed, for many, is empowering. He also urged people to seek their information from reputable sources.
If you or a member of your family is experiencing undue distress and anxiety as a result of Covid-19, online counselling and therapy may help. At The Hove Counselling Practice we can help support you in managing these feelings and create strategies for coping through the use of integrative therapy, DBT and EFT.