How to help young children cope with the COVID-19 crisis

Posted on 03/24/20 01:28:pm


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Fear. Anxiety. Uprooted routines. As the coronavirus continues to spread, each day brings unsettling news and drastic changes to our daily lives. People of all ages are trying to come to terms with the new normal—especially young children who may not fully understand these trying times.

“Very young children, newborns to five years of age, can be trying to tell you they’re afraid,” says Dr. Martha Libster, psychiatric clinical nurse specialist and director, clinical nurse education at Rogers Behavioral Health. “Parents and caregivers can miss the signs as they are focusing on dealing with their own fears,” she cautions. “Children absorb everything in their surroundings including their caregivers’ emotions. It’s important to pay attention to their nonverbal communication. They are saying how they feel even if they can’t speak yet or if they don’t have the vocabulary to explain.”

Dr. Libster gives tips for parenting during the COVID-19 pandemic:

  1. Observe your child. Are they isolating? Less interested in play? Do they not want to engage as they have before? If they don’t seem to be picking up on your fears don’t introduce scary things. Instead, keep conversations and interactions playful and positive.
  2. Three-minute investment. Silence your phone. Turn off the television. Shut off the radio. Get rid of all distractions. While we may not have control over COVID-19, we do have control over our environment. Do whatever you can to create a soothing environment like dimming lights and playing soft music. Give your child three minutes of your undivided attention when you come home from work or finish working from home.
  3. It’s not your fault. If your children see you upset or hear you talking about being afraid assure them they did nothing wrong in a calm tone of voice. Communicate the truth that what’s happening is not their fault and assure them of your love.
  4. Find ways to soothe. Fill up a kid-friendly hot water bottle. Run a warm bath. Look for ways to proactively calm your child.
  5. Breathe. Some children hold their breath when they’re afraid. Practice mindfulness while you’re playing together and while you’re eating dinner. Model taking deep breaths and exhaling.

Finding help at Rogers

If you or a loved one is struggling with mental health concerns call 800-767-4411 or request a free, confidential screening online.

Call 800-767-4411 or go to to request a free screening.