Caring for children during the coronavirus response

The evolving coronavirus outbreak in our community has been difficult for everyone to process. Each of us is experiencing some degree of anxiety or stress in the face of this pandemic. Children process stress differently than adults and are uniquely affected by the way we talk about the virus, images in the media, and changes to their routine following school closures and other ‘social distancing’ measures.

Balanced You is here to support King County employees who are parents and caretakers of children. Below, you will find resources and tips for helping children through this period.

Routine is important

Children thrive on structure and routine. As much as possible, adhere to a daily schedule.

To help children maintain routine:

  • Set a bedtime schedule. If your children are attending school remotely, encourage them to be dressed and ready for class, on time. If your children are not attending remote classes right now, encourage them to design a schedule with you that includes reading or practicing hobbies.
  • Stick to a normal meal and snack time. Now is a great opportunity for kids of all ages to practice cooking, or help to cook new, healthy recipes. As often as possible, share meals as a family, uninterrupted by TV or other devices.
  • Build in play and exercise time every day. If you are able, a family walk through your neighborhood or on a hiking trail – while keeping six feet apart from others – allows for social distancing while taking in the beautiful outdoors. Inside, you can find fun exercise videos online for children of all ages.
  • Support children in connecting virtually with friends. Help them set up video chats for casual conversation, dance parties, or tandem movie watching.

Listen to their fears

Children turn to adults they trust for the facts, and to ease their fears. They also seek their own explanations and turn to their peers, which can lead to misinformation. As much as possible, make space for children to talk to you about coronavirus.

To help children open up to you about their fears:

  • Be a good listener. Some children may express themselves through conversation, but others may play, draw, or change their behaviors or habits. Provide extra attention and space for the children to express concerns and ask questions.
  • Ask questions. Ask children what they’ve heard at school or from friends. Let them know it’s okay to feel anxious or upset. If children don’t want to talk about coronavirus, respect their boundaries and let them come to you when they’re ready.
  • Remind your children that things will eventually return to normal, and right now the best thing that we can do is to stay home.
  • Give extra love and attention. Speak kindly to children and reassure them.
  • When children want answers, provide the facts. For more information on the coronavirus, visit King County Public Health’s webpage. For more guidance on how to talk to kids, visit the World Health Organization.

More Resources

  • If your job requires you to come into work, and your children require childcare, contact Making Life Easier (MLE). MLE is a free resource for all King County employees that can assist you in locating and coordinating childcare. MLE also offers free counseling to anyone who shares your address.
  • If you are telecommuting with children at home, please visit this Balanced You post for tips.

Do you have other good practices for caring for children during coronavirus? We’d love to hear them! Please contact us at balancedyou@kingcounty.gov or (206) 263-9626.

For more information, a list of King County employees’ Frequently Asked Questions regarding the coronavirus can be found here.

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