10 Strategies to Keep your Child Calm in a Crisis
Updated: Mar 19
It’s hard to imagine keeping your child calm through the Coronavirus situation when you can’t keep yourself calm! I get it, it’s a bit scary for adults too. We’ve entered some new territory, but the good news is that the strategies provided can be used in ANY crisis!
Strategy #1: Lead by Example!
Believe it or not, you are your child’s most powerful role model. If you’re scared, they’re scared. Kids are naturally intuitive and they pick up on subtle clues. So how do you stay calm and set an example when you’re feeling so panicked?
Breathe...In guidance class, I teach students to pretend to smell a flower and blow out a candle. This helps them focus on their breathing - sometimes we forget to breathe when we’re feeling stressed! Deep breaths are proven to calm you down!
Get outside and move! Exercise is proven to increase endorphins (our good feeling chemicals) and decrease stress.
Remember what is within your control and what is not. Make a list! Write down all of the things that you have control over in this situation. Then write down all of the things that you don’t. Take action on the ones you do and let go of the rest. All worrying does is make you feel worse.
Check out the "Worry No More" curriculum that I use with my students! This was created for the classroom setting but can be modified to be taught outside of the classroom and is full of strategies!
Strategy #2: Turn off the TV
The news focuses on the crisis and when it’s constantly on in the background, it’s hard to keep a clear head. The news and social media magnifies the fear. If you need to be in the know, then check your phone in private...but not too much.
Strategy #3: Limit Adult Conversation around your Children
Limit the Coronavirus conversations that you have with other adults to a time when the kids are not around. If you’re obsessed with talking about it, they will be too!
Strategy #4: Be a good listener
They might just need to talk about it, but what’s the best way to bring it up? Don’t assume they’re feeling a certain way, because kids and adults tend to think differently. Ask “how is this situation making you feel?” Let them share their feelings without judgment. Just listen, make eye contact, nod, repeat what you’re hearing them say, give them undivided attention and ask clarifying questions. Just having a grown-up listen to them can give them a huge sense of relief!
Strategy #5: Reassure them
We tend to just want to say “Everything is going to be okay” and it probably will, but when you say that, kids usually figure out you might just be making it up. Reassurance can be letting them know that everything is okay right now.
Keep them in the moment, rather than allowing them to contemplate the “what ifs”. If they tell you they’re worried, simply ask what’s making them feel worried.
Worry comes from two places: from something that has happened in the past or from something that hasn’t happened yet. Worry is never about something right, smack in the moment. If they tell you they’re worried about something that “might” happen, remind them that they’re okay right now and right now is truly the only moment that matters.
Here’s a fun strategy to give them...using all 5 senses forces us to stay in the moment - encourage them to use these prompts...better yet, do it with them!
5 things I see
4 things I hear
3 things I feel
2 things I smell
1 thing I taste
Strategy #6: Spend time together
If you’re stuck at home, you may as well try to make the best of it. Pull out the board games...kids LOVE playing games! You might not realize it, but they love playing games with you. I know this because students tell me all the time their favorite memories are when their parents/caregivers play with them. I get it, it’s not easy to do all the time, but if you can even set aside 30 minutes, they will remember it forever!
Strategy #7: Get outside!
Guess what, the germs aren’t out there (as long as no one is within 6 feet of you)! Physical activity and fresh air will clear your head and theirs! Go build a fort, throw a football, stomp through puddles, create streams with the newly melted snow, look for animal tracks and run in the rain.
Strategy #8: Laugh
We have no toilet paper! Hahahahaha! Maybe not about that. Watch a funny movie. Did you know that laughter has been proven to:
Boost the immune system
Trigger the release of endorphins
Protect the heart
Relax the body
Help you live longer
Laughter is contagious, but in a good way...if they see you laughing they’ll want to join in.
Strategy #9: Be a Part of the Solution
Action equals empowerment. It’s easy to complain about all that’s going wrong, but that doesn’t change it. Help them to see that they can be a part of the solution and this will give them a sense of control.
You can ask questions like: “If you believed it were possible to stop the spread of this disease, what would your responsibility be?” The answers to this question will help them see why they can’t be in school, why they can’t hang around their friends and why they can’t go to the trampoline park.
Here’s a fun one for adults: “If you believed it were possible for everyone to have enough toilet paper, what would YOU have to do?” Um, only buy one package at a time as usual.
Strategy #10: Create a Routine
No matter how much kids complain about getting up and going to school, the routine of it is vital. It’s consistent, safe and predictable. Now, if they're socially isolated, they’re not quite sure what to do and that can create discomfort. Create a new clear routine and make sure to stick to it as best you can. Create a calendar of events that might look like this:
2:00-4:00 Bake/Board Games/Tech Break/Read, etc.
Hang in there, if you’re home with your kids it’s like a full-time job, if you’re not, parent guilt pops in. Just know you’re doing the best you can in a difficult situation and it’s probably not going to be perfect. Remind yourself that this is a season and seaons pass. Self-care is important, you need to put your own oxygen mask on before you can put someone else’s on.