By Thomasina Jenkins
LCSW, CSAC, ICS
What can parents do to help children and adolescents during this COVID-19 Pandemic?
Realizing that this is a traumatic event, parents and family members should identify and address their own feelings—this can allow them to help others. Explain to children what happened and let them know that:
1.You love them.
2. The event is not their fault.
3. You will do your best to take care of them.
4. It’s okay for them to feel upset.
• Allow children to be sad or cry.
• Let children talk, write, or draw pictures about the event and their feelings.
• Limit viewing of repetitive news reports about traumatic events.
• Give extra attention to children who have trouble sleeping. Let them sleep with a light on or let them sleep in your room (for a short time).-
• Try to keep your usual routines (or create new routines), such as reading bedtime stories, eating dinner together, or playing games.
• Help children feel in control when possible by letting them make decisions for themselves, such as choosing meals or picking out clothes.
• Contact a health professional if, a month after the event children are not able to perform their usual routines.
• Contact a health care provider if new behavioral or emotional problems develop, particularly if these symptoms occur for more than a few weeks:
o Flashbacks (flashbacks are the mind reliving the event)
o A racing heart and sweating
o Being easily startled
o Being emotionally numb
o Being very sad or depressed
• Expect children to be brave or tough.
• Make children discuss the event before they are ready.
• Get angry if children show strong emotions.
• Get upset if they begin bed-wetting, acting out or thumb-sucking.
Children’s reactions to trauma are strongly influenced by adults’ responses to trauma. Parents can help children by receiving their own support, engaging in self-care, being supportive, remaining as calm as possible and by reducing other stressors.
Thomasina Jenkins holds a Master’s in Social Work and her license of Social Work. She is a psychotherapist, an adjunct professor at UW-Milwaukee and co-founder of Black Clinicians Milwaukee. She has been a Mary Ellen Strong Foundation Mentor since 2018. She has a private practice, Renewed Purpose LLC. For further information www.renewedpurpose.weebly.com.