Stress Awareness for Parents & Adults to Help Children & Teens (Part 2)

Last week, I highlighted the need for adults, especially parents and guardians to understand how children and teens might respond to stressful traumatic events like COVID-19. Today, I want to share some useful tips to help children and teens talk about their concerns, fears and how they’re handling day-to-day life. According to experts at the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), when “parents and caregivers deal with the COVID-19 calmly and confidently, they can provide the best support for their children. Parents can be more reassuring to others around them, especially children if they are better prepared.”1
Folks, this is my best advice to you – when talking about situations and events that seem unimaginable like COVID-19, tailor your talks to fit your child or teenager’s developmental age, level of understanding and available resources. Be honest in your words and emotions but have patience and empathy. A one size fits all approach does not work when dealing with catastrophic events especially for our children & teens.

Research shows that “a traumatic experience is any event in life that causes a threat to our safety and potentially places our own life or the lives of others at risk. As a result, a person experiences high levels of emotional, psychological, and physical distress that temporarily disrupts their ability to function normally in day to day life.”2 Activities like getting out of bed to practicing personal hygiene and grooming to having an interest in hobbies or school can be affected.

General Strategies to Help Kids & Teen through Traumatic Events

Be respectful. Create a non-judgment zone to encourage honest conversations. Avoid speaking when angry-calm down first! Adults, be willing to share your feelings and concerns about the event. Acknowledge the sadness, hurts & impact of the situation has had on your daily activities. Talk about the temporary loss of independence because of social & physical distancing. Reinforce the need for kids and teens to stay connected with people and activities. Keep lines of communication open.

Realize that younger children and teens will mask their own feelings so look for changes in behaviors & patterns. Adults, you must “model” the expected walk and talk-avoid hypocrisy! Use words & phrases that match their developmental age and comprehension level. Teach them how to practice good personal hygiene & hand washing. Talk about ways to decrease the spread of germs. Help children and teens establish their daily routines or schedules to keep them better focused and less stressed. Set up exercise and recreation sessions. Take media and information breaks to reduce emotional stress and strain. Encourage laughter. Establish technology-free times in schedules to allow for face-to-face interactions and socialization. Have family game nights. Cook meals as a family. Share stories.

Talk about God’s love for humanity. Biblically explain concepts like suffering, hope, love, salvation, etc. Encourage them to share feelings and ask questions. Let your kids and teens know how much you love them. Thank God. Pray together before ending any significant conversation or time spent together.

The next installment will focus more specifically on ways to keep children de-stressed during this pandemic event!

MY PRAYER: Dear God, thank you for granting us direct access to your throne of grace and mercy. Teach us to walk in your ways so we may model your words in our thoughts and behaviors to others, especially our young ones. Grant us patience, compassion and wisdom to know you are available at all times and especially when we need a loving and forgiving Savior. Lord Jesus, help us for we are heavy-laden by the weight of this present day. Give us hope, peace and strength to withstand whatever lies ahead so we may lead, guide & instruct those coming after us. Amen.