Don’t let coronavirus stress impact the family dynamic

Experts at Virginia Tech share how to talk about the pandemic with kids

BLACKSBURG, Va. – Stress and anxiety are two things a lot of us are dealing with right now. Experts at Virginia Tech give you what you need to know to help relieve some of that stress for you and your family.

Cindy Smith, associate professor of Human Development and Family Science at Virginia Tech. She also runs the Children’s Emotions Lab. She said his time can be stressful for many reasons.

First, social distancing has families together in a way they may not be used to or doesn’t happen often. Parents can be worried about losing their jobs and how to pay for bills. They are also juggling more roles than before.

Here’s Smith’s advice:

  • Admit this is a stressful time and you won’t be able to handle everything perfectly
  • Recognize how the stress is impacting your family
  • Focus on things you can control and instead of things you can’t control
  • Focus on positive, high-quality interactions with your kid(s)
  • Don’t hide what’s going on with coronavirus from your kid(s), it’s impacting them so they are aware of changes
  • Have a conversation with your kid(s) depending on their stage of development

The last thing you want to do is get stressed and lash out on any family member and make matters worse.

Smith said, “Try and find things that are fun, find things that the kids really like that’s going to create positive effect from the parent and the child and that can help with the parents on feelings of anxiety and depression.”

She also mentions the fun and games will allow your kids to feel more comfortable coming to you if they are stressed. Having that conversation doesn’t have to be as difficult as you may think.

“You’re obviously going to speak to an elementary child about it differently than you would an adolescent. And a 3 or a 4 year old you’re going to need to explain things in a different way so I would really recognize that each child needs to be talked to about it in a way they can understand in their own cognitive capacities,” said Smith.

She adds that hiding what’s going on makes things harder for you as the parent. Most likely they know something is going on because they are being impacted; they can’t go to school and you’re working from home.

It’s a hard goal to say you want to eliminate all the stress when this truly is a stressful time.

If you’re starting to feel too stressed and overwhelmed, there are resources including the Family Therapy Center at Virginia Tech and other teletherapy options.

For a look at how the CDC suggests you talk to your kid(s) about what’s happening, click here.

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