How to Help Children Navigate Uncertainty During COVID-19

Written by Erryn Shine, MS

How to Help Children Navigate Uncertainty During COVID-19

From a switch in schooling to a year-long pause in building in-person relationships, the pandemic has challenged the way we show up for the children in our lives. If the stresses of living under quarantine are making you feel more withdrawn or irritable,  chances are children and teens feel this way, too. By communicating regularly, building resilience, and adopting new strategies, caregivers can play an important role in helping children and teens make sense of information and emotions surrounding COVID-19.

Honest Conversations

Having open and honest conversations about emotions is the first step in potentially minimizing feelings of anxiety or fear. Children and even teens have a tendency to fill in the gap when information is missing, so talk to them about what’s happening using language they can understand and reassure them when necessary. Access to technology can also mean access to misinformation. Model strategies for identifying accurate information by ensuring what you share is from a reliable source.

Building Resilience

Adversity is a natural part of life. Resilience describes our ability to navigate through obstacles and challenges. As a caregiver, you may be inclined to protect your child by putting on a brave face, but shielding them from the realities of life may backfire and do more of a disservice in the long run. Communicating openly about challenges or difficult feelings helps support effective problem solving and other strategies that contribute to resilience. When caregivers are receptive to discussing adversity, stress or fears, children and teens may feel more comfortable communicating about them.

 Coping Strategies

Coping strategies are skills we use to reduce stress and maintain a sense of wellbeing. Coping looks different for everyone. Exercise, creative activities like drawing or painting, or mindful activities such as meditation are all great ways to handle stress. These activities can help us become more present rather than focusing on an uncertain future. Getting out into nature, talking with a good friend, watching a funny movie, journaling, or having quality time with the family are all options to add to your coping strategy toolbox. The important thing is to model the use of these strategies and talk about ways to reduce stress with children and teens. 

Utilize these tools to improve the wellbeing of yourself and your children during times of uncertainty. If you feel stressed, overwhelmed, fearful or worried, remember to show yourself compassion and remind yourself that it is normal to feel this way. With practice, you and your family will be ready to face whatever tomorrow will bring.

 

Erryn Shine, MS is a Resilience Trainer at the UCLA/VA Veteran Family Wellness Center (VFWC).  She was a USMC spouse of 13 years, and during those years she served as a Key Volunteer. Erryn obtained a Master’s of Science degree in Clinical Psychology from Capella University.  She had the privilege to work with soldiers from Fort Bragg providing therapy and assessment services at a private mental health provider in Fayetteville, North Carolina.  Erryn worked for the Los Angeles County’s Department of Mental Health (LACDMH) for the last 5 1/2 years. 

 

The VFWC is honored to continue to serve and support the military-connected community during challenging times. For information, resources, and appointments please call our Family Services Coordinator at (310) 478-3711 x 42793 or email info@vfwc.ucla.edu.