Taking care of children

Taking care of children

There may be children or young people in your life who experience distress. As a trusted adult, you can help reassure and educate them about COVID-19 – it can be good to talk to them now, so they can understand the illness and be reassured. If you feel the child or young person is getting distressed through this conversation, reassure them and end it.

Children react to stress differently than adults – they may withdraw or behave in a more ‘babyish’ way, seem anxious or clingy, be preoccupied with illness in their play or drawing, have problems sleeping or nightmares, or may get physical symptoms such as stomach aches or headaches. Here are some tips for supporting children and young people:

  1. Reassure them they are safe.
  2. Encourage them to talk about how they feel.
  3. Tell them they can ask questions and answer these in plain language appropriate to their age – be honest, but avoid details which may distress or cause anxiety.
  4. Tell them that feeling upset or afraid is normal, that it’s good to talk about it and that they’ll feel better soon.
  5. Be understanding – they may have problems sleeping, throw tantrums or wet the bed – be patient and reassuring if this happens. With support and care, it will pass.
  6. Give your children extra love and attention.
  7. Remember that children look to their parents to feel safe and to know how to respond – reassure them, share that you are upset too but that you know you will all be fine together.
  8. Try to keep to normal routines – mealtimes, bedtimes etc. – allow them to get out and play, to go to the park etc.

However, if a child’s distress is escalating or they are displaying any worrying behaviours (such as extreme withdrawal, terror that you cannot comfort them from etc.), seek help early.

If you or the child(ren) are in self-isolation, call Healthline first (0800 611 116).

Otherwise, your GP is a good starting point. For support with grief, anxiety, distress or mental wellbeing, you can call or text 1737 to talk with a trained counsellor for free, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Parents or whānau concerned about a young person in crisis should seek help.