COVID-19 has put a lot things we were looking forward to on hold; parties, sport events, vacations and seeing friends – all postponed or canceled for the foreseeable future. It’s natural to feel disappointed or even frustrated, especially with the uncertainty of the situation and not knowing when life will get back to normal. Disappointment can be even more difficult for children to deal with as they struggle to fully understand what is going on.
Children thrive on routine and the coronavirus has forced many changes to their everyday lives; schools are closed, not seeing their friends and family, and missing out on fun activities like birthday parties.
As parents, the role of helping our kids come to terms with these disappointments is an important one. We can get caught off-guard with questions and mixed emotions but telling them that disappointment is just a part of life probably isn’t enough. Here we take a look at some ways to help kids manage their concerns and process disappointment to avoid feeling anxious or depressed.
- Look for unusual signs Uncertain times can cause children to become anxious and worried. Look for any differences in normal behavior such as changes in eating or sleeping habits or in their mood.
- Ask them how they feel Ask open-ended questions to encourage them to talk about things they haven’t discussed before. Try and get them to label their emotions as it will help them feel understood and in control. Acknowledge any disappointment and let them know that it’s ok to be feeling this way.
- Assess and address Try to assess what they know and understand about the situation, then address any misconceptions. They will want to know and understand what is going on, so make sure your answers are factual but age-appropriate.
- Offer perspective Try and put things in perspective for them. Let them know that it’s okay to be disappointed, remind them of the positive things and that life will go back to normal.
- Gratitude Encourage them to think about things in their life that they are grateful for. Take a moment each day to discuss one thing that makes them happy and also encourage them to show gratitude; calling a family member or writing a letter to someone can be a really positive way to do this.
- Distraction If your child is disappointed that a certain activity has been canceled, try to distract them by suggesting an alternative. It won’t be the same, but it can take their mind off what they are missing. Assure them that events and activities will happen in the future (but don’t promise a date), so they have something to look forward to.
- Positivity Try and remain positive around your children. If they see that you aren’t overly concerned or worried, they are less likely to feel anxious. Remind them that this won’t last forever and keep conversations around them positive.
Research shows that positive people are better at managing stress, so now is a good time to share positivity with your kids. Building up resilience in children is important as they learn to handle setbacks and now is a great opportunity to support them as they learn these life skills.