child trauma covid mask

I just finished reading the Parent/Caregiver Guide to Helping Family Cope With the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) authored by the National Child Traumatic Stress Network (NCTSN). The article addressed many child trauma coronavirus concerns, including physical, social and emotional. I encourage you to read the entire article but I am going to write this blog concentrating on the reactions that have been observed in children and how parents/caregivers can help. They divided children up into 3 different age groups and discussed each.

Pre-School

The major list of child traumatic reactions to the pandemic are:

  • Fear of being alone
  • bad dreams
  • Speech difficulties
  • Loss of bladder/bowel control, constipation, bed-wetting
  • Change in appetite
  • Increased temper tantrums, whining, or clinging behavior

What parents and caregivers can do to help is:

  • Provide reassurance (verbal and physical)
  • Encourage expression through play, reenactment, story-telling
  • Allow short-term changes in sleep arrangements
  • Plan calming, comforting activities before bedtime
  • Maintain regular family routines
  • Avoid media exposure

I was especially interested in “avoid media exposure”.  Many child experts believe that too much information in this age group often leads to anxiety.

School Age 6-12

This age groups major list of child trauma coronavirus reactions are:

  • Irritability, whining, aggressive behavior
  • Clinging, nightmares
  • Sleep/appetite disturbance
  • Physical symptoms (headaches, stomachaches)
  • Withdrawal from peers, loss of interest
  • Competition for parents’ attention

What parents and caregivers can do to help is:

  • Play sessions and staying in touch with friends through phone and Internet
  • Regular exercise
  • Discuss the current outbreak and encourage questions. Include what is being done in the family and community to help stop the pandemic
  • Encourage expression through play and conversation
  • Create ideas for enhancing health promotion behaviors and maintaining family routines
  • Limit media exposure, talking about what they have seen/heard including at school

It is also important to talk with your children about how some stories about COVID-19 on the internet and social media may be based on rumors and inaccurate information.

Adolescents 13-18

The major list of child trauma coronavirus reactions are:

  • Sleep/appetite disturbance
  • Agitation or decrease in energy, apathy
  • Ignoring health promotion behaviors
  • Isolating from peers and loved ones
  • Avoiding/cutting school (especially when it is online only)

What parents and caregivers can do to help is:

  • Encourage continuation of routines
  • Encourage discussion of outbreak experience with peers, family (but do not force)
  • Stay in touch with friends through telephone, Internet, video games
  • Participate in family routines, supporting younger siblings, and planning strategies to encourage health promotion behaviors
  • Limit media exposure, talking about what they have seen/heard including at school

We at the Center know these times are trying for both children and their parents.  If you are noticing any of these reactions please feel free to:

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