Parents know all too well the difficulties that can arise when a routine is disrupted. The need for children to have a routine starts early as parents and caregivers spend sleepless nights with their infants in an effort to create a sleep schedule. It continues on as school begins, outside obligations such as sports enter the picture, and play dates become sleepovers. Routines help because they give kids a sense of safety and security in a sometimes chaotic world.
But when something like the COVID-19 outbreak happens, even the most resilient caregiver can feel unmoored by the lack of routine they are able to create for their child and how this lack of stability is affecting emotional well-being.
Children may be feeling some challenging emotions that they have not had much practice in dealing with. Parents can help by acknowledging the tumultuous emotions children are experiencing and assist them in identifying them in ways they can understand. Not only does this help them manage complicated emotions, but also teaches them empathy for others. The Feelings Wheel, invented by Dr. Gloria Wilcox, can help children (and adults) put a name to the emotions they are feeling and help them gain control.
For parents struggling with how to help children manage their emotions during this scary and unpredictable time, it’s important to remember that being honest with your children (in ways they can understand) will go a long way in mitigating their fear. Make them feel safe, give them some power, show empathy, and let them know what to expect to the extent that you can.
And, don’t forget to take time for self-care. This is a difficult time for all of us. Lean on other parents, take a deep breath, and know that this too shall pass.