Managing Family Stress During COVID-19 Posted on April 21, 2020 By: Garry Lapidus, PA-C, MPH, and Kevin Borrup, DrPH, JD, MPA During this time of coronavirus, the “new normal” for many families includes a heightened level of stress – from fears of illness to financial challenges to new childcare and distance learning demands. Sound familiar? For help managing stress – your child’s, and your own – Connecticut Children’s Injury Prevention Center experts join the blog. Help your child deal with stress, and take steps to prevent behavioral challenges. Check in on how your child is coping with COVID-19. Make an extra effort to notice and reward your child’s accomplishments and positive behavior. Be patient as they adjust to learning at home, and help them navigate the new technology they’re using. Be involved in schoolwork. (If you haven’t already, here’s how to set up a “home office” to keep them focused.) Help your child avoid boredom, which can lead to behavioral issues. Once your child finishes schoolwork, involve them in constructive activities, whether it be playing a game together or going for a walk outside. Make sure they get plenty of exercise. Encourage them to maintain connections with their friends and family through phone calls, video chats and social media. (Get tips for social media safety here.) Limit their exposure to news on coronavirus. Be available to talk with them about the coronavirus. Read our developmental pediatrician’s advice for age-appropriate answers. If your child is having trouble sleeping, our pediatric sleep psychologist has solutions. Let them know the adults in their life are doing everything they can to keep them safe. > Want more ways to help your child manage stress? Two pediatric psychologists share strategies. As a parent, be sure to take care of yourself. Eat healthy meals, stay active with plenty of exercise and get enough sleep. Limit your own consumption of news related to the pandemic, and make sure it comes from reputable sources. (To receive updates from our pediatric experts – including resources to get your family through coronavirus – sign up for our weekly email.) Stay connected with family and friends through emails, text messages, phone calls and video chats. Support networks are especially important during stressful times, and can help you maintain a positive outlook. Share your feelings with trusted family, friends, faith leaders and professional counselors. This often provides significant relief for immediate stress, as well as helps you manage stress long-term. It may also be a productive way to get help with childcare and other resources. Do what you can to address sources of financial stress. Many families are feeling financial stress due to job loss. You are not alone. Contact your employer or former employer to ask about eligible support. If you reside or work in Connecticut, check state resources at the Department of Labor and Department of Social Services. Your town’s human services department may offer local assistance as well. Prevent child abuse. Research shows that incidents of child abuse increase as stress on families increase. Never hit, squeeze, throw or shake your child. Any of these actions can cause irreversible harm, including death. If you are at risk of losing control, walk away, find a strategy to calm yourself and reach out for support. (See below.) Yelling or physical aggression toward a spouse or child can have a negative impact on everyone in a home, including increasing aggression in children and causing long-term developmental issues. Get tips on calming a child who is crying. The American Academy of Pediatrics offers additional advice for preventing abuse and dealing with acute stress as a parent. Reach out for support. Call the Talk It Out Line at 833.258.5011. The hotline is devoted to parents and caregivers who need someone to listen, understand and help them talk through their feelings. Call 2-1-1 to connect with a variety of resources, including family and mental health supports. Visit CTSafeConnect.org or call 888.774.2900 if you need help or support. Advocates are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. If you have concerns about your own child, another child you care for, or the ability of an adult you know to properly care for their child, contact the Connecticut State Department of Children and Families at 1.800.842.2288.