Child with mother
Category: Children's Health, Health Magazine

Title:Advice for parents and caregivers

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, caregivers may sometimes be at a loss in helping children cope with ongoing uncertainty in their lives. Elizabeth Chawla, MD, FAAP (M’09), a primary care physician at MedStar Georgetown University Hospital’s outpatient pediatrics clinic and associate professor of clinical pediatrics at the School of Medicine, offers three pieces of advice:

1. Be emotionally present for your children.

“When kids express worries or sadness, our first instinct as caregivers is to offer some sort of reassurance—‘Oh, don’t worry everything’s going to be fine.’ But sometimes that comes across to the child like we’re dismissing or invalidating their feelings,” Chawla says.

“So it’s really important to first let children know it’s a safe place to express their feelings and then offer some reassurance. That might sound more like, ‘I know you’re a little worried about Grandma. It can be scary to hear on the news that older people are likely to get more sick from COVID. But we’re going to do our best to protect her and keep her safe. That’s why we’re going to get the vaccine and only going to talk to her on FaceTime instead of going to visit her right now.’”

2. Maintain some degree of routine.

“Any part of the day you can make feel normal for kids can help them feel more secure, even when the outside world feels very chaotic,” Chawla says. “That could be a particular family routine, like dad is always the one who puts the kids to bed, or we always get doughnuts for breakfast on Saturdays. Some families actually created new little rituals during the pandemic.”

3. Take care of yourself.

“It’s been a really stressful year and a half for all of us. We need to make sure that we’re taking care of our own health and our own stress level, so that we can be emotionally available to our children.”

The piece originally appeared as a sidebar in The Impact of COVID-19 on the Young.

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