Children may have many questions about why they have to stay at home and why they can’t go to birthday parties or see their friends. Answering these questions and managing their feelings of loss or their past life can be challenging but we have some tips below, including activities to help calm their tempers during COVID-19, because childhood can’t wait. 

Firstly, how are you feeling?

Fear and anxiety are contagious, but so is being measured and calm. If you are feeling panicky, annoyed or stressed, wait until you are calmer before talking to your child about how they are feeling.

Children pick up on our emotions and learn from us how to manage their feelings. So, when they see that we can tolerate some uncertainty, or feel cross but still manage to calm ourselves they know that this is possible too. When we can approach a child’s emotions with calm and curiosity they will remember how we helped them this time and be able to have that in mind in the future.

Remind your children it’s OK to have feelings

Sometimes we worry that if we talk about a feeling it will make it worse, but most often it is the other way round.

Let children know that what they are feeling is normal and that many children will be finding it hard to adjust to how things are at the moment. It can help to name the feelings for them – “I can see you’re feeling frustrated that you can’t see your friends. It’s annoying to be stuck at home a lot”

 Click here for activities to do while inside

For example, disappointment at the cancellation of a birthday party is linked to feelings of a loss of control. We might be tempted to jolly someone along by saying “never mind we’ll have an even better party later on”, or be cross because they are in a temper, but this can leave them feeling we don’t understand their loss. Staying alongside the feeling, even if it is difficult, helps children to know that it is possible to manage difficult emotions and that they are not alone in doing so.

Children need help to regulate their emotions

If a child becomes very overwhelmed by their emotions they can be in a state where reason and rational explanation will not get through and will need to calm down before they can think clearly.

It can help to remind them that they can have a ‘thinking head’ or a ‘worry head’ or an ‘angry head’. They might be using their ‘angry head’ right now but they will find their thinking head again.

Activities to help calm children down and regulate their emotions:

  • The shape game: choosing a shape, such as a circle, and identifying all of the things in the room you can see with this shape.
  • Finger breathing: inhale slowly while tracing up the outside of your little finger and exhale slowly while tracing down the inside of your little finger. Repeat with your ring finger, followed by your middle finger, index finger, and thumb.

Safe Hands and Thinking Minds have a list of useful activities to help support children and adults around anxiety, worry and fears due to Coronavirus

Useful contact numbers:

For parents

Family Action. Providing support for adult members of families via telephone, text, email and webchat on their FAMILYLINE

Family Lives free and confidential helpline for parents in England & Wales How we can help

For parents in Scotland from Children 1st PARENTLINE

For parents in Northern Ireland PARENTLINE

Association for Infant Mental Health fact sheet on Emotional Survival for infants and their parents. 

For Children

Childline: 0800 1111 (24/7)

Click here for advice on how to talk to teenagers about COVID-19