24 Mar How Can Parents Help Their Children During This Health Crisis?
In just one week, our lives have changed drastically. Now, imagine the confusion and stress our children are experiencing. How can we help them during this time to ease their concerns? How can we turn a difficult situation into a positive time for reconnecting with our family and growing in our faith?
“Remain calm,” said Melissa Tablada, licensed marriage and family therapist. “Children are looking to their parents to see how they should feel right now. A panicked, fearful response will tell a child that they are unsafe, which may lead to disruptive and unusual behavior. A calm response will tell a child that even though there is something serious happening, they are safe and in good hands.”
Tablada also encourages parents to read to their children. What better time than now to snuggle with your child and read I’m Not A Scaredy Cat: A Prayer for When You Wish You Were Brave by Max Lucado.
This humorous picture book helps kids manage their fears and worries and learn to trust God.
Another good book is, Unstoppable Me, co- written by champion surfer Bethany Hamilton and her husband Adam Dirks.
This beautifully illustrated board book will inspire children to stay strong and keep trying no matter what challenges they may face.
Parents should also take time to pray and read books that will inspire them. The book Still Amidst the Storm by attorney, publisher, and father of 12, Conor Gallagher, is about parents encountering God in times of stress and anxiety.
Another great resource for turning fear into faith is The Gary Zimak Podcast Show which can be downloaded on iTunes. Zimak is a well-known Christian author that writes and speaks on ways to conquer worry.
It’s also important to be cautious of the conversations you have in front of your children explains Jennifer Gomez-Morales, licensed school psychologist.
“Hearing that there is no food at a store can create fear and anxiety. If they happen to hear this through another source, be truthful. Inform them that groceries stores will remain open,” she said.
Minimize the amount of time the TV news is on in your home. “Having the TV on all day repeating the same information may just create more anxiety. Talk to them. Validate their emotions and provide only facts not speculation about the crisis,” said Gomez-Morales.
The experts all concur that it’s important to be attentive to the children’s behavior. If they display any form of regression such as coming to your bed to sleep at night, losing interest in their favorite games or toys, trouble falling asleep, having temper tantrums, or asking constant questions about the situation, this means they are preoccupied with the topic.
Marriage and mental health counselor, Carolina Malpica, encourages parents to sit down and establish a dialogue with their children without distractions such as the TV or internet.
“I assure you they will be surprised about their children’s ideas and thoughts in this crisis,” she said.
Some other activities Malpica recommends is sharing an inspirational book with your children, listening carefully to their feedback, and teaching them hygiene guidelines to stay healthy. She also suggests enjoying a board game, organizing rooms and closets, cooking or baking, and praying together as a family.
“Let your children know the importance of your time together, however the economic tension. This is a time to value life and family!” Malpica said.
Parents may want to utilize a book entitled Redo Your Room (Faithgirlz) an excellent resource with plenty of color photos and creative do-it-yourself ideas on how to change the look of your room. Cooking meals with your kids can be a lot of fun and a great skill to learn for when they are older. Let yourself be inspired with the book Mix-and-Match Mama ® Kids in the Kitchen: Crazy-Fun Recipes to Make Memories Together by Shay Shull. You will have plenty of easy recipes with full color pictures in this 112-page book.
More effective than a verbal explanation to a young child is utilizing a music experience which will engage the emotional part of the brain to process feelings in a positive way, said Katherine Lantigua, board-certified music therapist who specializes in neonatal and pediatric music therapy.
“It is healthy to allow children to communicate their frustrations with the help of music,” she said. “If they are upset that they don’t get to see their friends or that they are missing a certain teacher or music class, give them the opportunity to share what they like about that friend, that teacher, or that class with a song.”
Parents can help their children to write a song. Your little one can share what she or he likes about visiting their friend. The final verse can include some exciting ideas about the next time they are able to visit. “Make sure to include a repetitive chorus that reminds them that everything is going to be ok. This will be the part that will stick in their head and they will enjoy singing it many times over,” Lantigua explained.
During this time, older kids can benefit from journaling their feelings. Two good journals with Bible quotes and references are: The Plans I Have for You Journal and Faithgirlz Journal: My Doodles, Dreams and Devotions. It’s important to encourage teens to read about heroic figures who faced great difficulties in their lifetime but learned to trust in God. Homeschool studies can be enhanced with time to read about brave men and women who made a mark on history such as Joan of Arc: God’s Soldier by Susan Helen Wallace and Abraham Lincoln: The Making of America by Teri Kanefield. There are also short educational videos, historical essays and virtual tours that bring history to life from the White House Historical Association (Digital Resources for Distance Learning) at: https://www.whitehousehistory.org/online-resources.
Most importantly, remind your children that you love them and that it is a wonderful time to gather and pray as a family. Read Psalm 91 and other books in the Bible, as well as Bible Stories for younger children, which are full of stories of how God is always guiding and protecting His people.
Note: All books mentioned in this story are available at www.goodnewsbookshop.com