Parenting During a Crisis: Signs of Anxiety in Children

Parenting During a CrisisCoping with the COVID-19 outbreak is hard for children, too. And while they tend to have a stronger reaction to stress than adults, kids are less likely to express themselves with words. This means your child’s behavior is often the key to knowing how well he or she is adjusting. Signs of anxiety may be a clue that your child needs extra support.

Watch for Signs
Everyone responds to stress differently. Children with anxiety may:

  • Eat less or much more
  • Experience headaches or pain that can’t be explained
  • Have nightmares and trouble falling or staying asleep
  • Not enjoy activities they liked before
  • Seem excessively sad or worried

Over time, reactions should lessen for most children. However, if you have any concerns or questions about these or other behaviors, talk with your child’s pediatrician or a mental health professional.

Ways to Cope
Kids are sensitive to the grown-ups around them. Try to set a good example. Manage your own stress in healthy ways, such as eating well and exercising. You can also help your child by:

  • Being mindful of how you talk about COVID-19. Don’t watch or listen to its coverage too often—or with young children nearby. Share basic facts about COVID-19. Use age-appropriate language to answer questions and correct rumors.
  • Offering reassurance. You could say something like, “I know this is hard. It’s OK to feel upset” or “Doctors, nurses, and other people are working hard to help everyone stay safe.”
  • Following your prior routine. Be flexible, but stay as close as possible to set times for eating meals, doing schoolwork, and going to bed.
  • Giving them a sense of control. Position frequent handwashing and other precautions as something they can do to help everyone stay well.
  • Connecting with friends and family. Hold calls or video chats with classmates, grandparents, and other people your child misses.

Continue the Conversation
It can be tricky talking to kids about a crisis. How do you balance being honest without scaring them? Here are six tips from pediatrician Dr. Maria Lombardi about addressing the COVID-19 pandemic with your little ones.