How to discuss coronavirus (COVID-19) with my children?

The key steps to discuss difficult topics with children are: Ask, Listen, Reflect and Clarify.

First, ask children about their understanding of the situation. For older children, use open-ended questions, such as “What do you hear about coronavirus?” For younger children, use yes-no questions, such as “Do you hear about the new sickness that’s going around?” Then, follow up with more questions to explore their understanding. For younger kids, it is helpful to discuss those topics in play or during other hand-on activities. Listen to their concerns, questions, and thoughts about coronavirus.

In the process of the communication, reflect children’s feelings of confusion, fear, or concerns. Simply, validate their feelings by reflecting that it is normal to feel this way and reassure their safety. Sometimes, when appropriate, discuss your own feelings to normalize the situation.

When you hear some misleading facts or irrational fears, clarify calmly with the facts. Do not over-share the emotional content from the news or social media. Instead, focus on the objective facts, and things you can do together.

It is very important to discuss coronavirus in a developmentally-appropriate way.

For Adolescents, their minds are able to understand abstract concept and start to question right from wrong. The requirement of social distancing is most difficult for adolescents as they seek peer approval and long for socialization. Sometimes, the rules due to the pandemic add on more strain on the relationship when their needs are not met. They can become more irritable, or even oppositional. Do not take it personal. Discuss openly about the coronavirus and its impact on house rules and everyone. Allow adolescents to hold their view about COVID-19 independently as long as they can maintain safety behaviors within certain boundaries.

For School-age children, the understanding of coronavirus may be more limited, especially those in lower elementary school. Visual learning of virus and germs can help them understand the importance of hand-washing and masks. Generalize the importance of the personal hygiene to more than just to coronavirus. Parents’ reaction can impact children’s perception of a threat. Allow children to ask questions. Answer their questions honestly and calmly. No more, no less.

For Kindergarteners, Preschoolers, and Toddlers, they are present at the moments. Help them understand what others are talking about could relieve the fear of uncertainty. Attune to their feelings and curiosity. Ask them about COVID-19 and their understanding of it. Respond to their questions and correct misinformation if any. Very likely, they forget about it quickly when they are playing at home again.

Take the steps and respond to children according to their needs. Keep the conversation going when they have questions. Do not avoid discussion or constantly talking about it all the time. The middle path is the way through any difficult situation or conversation.

How to challenge loneliness in pandemic?

Loneliness is a subjective feeling regardless you are surrounded by a crowd or in isolation. During pandemic, the sense of loneliness becomes more and more overwhelming and eventually swallows the joy of life. The emptiness and darkness infiltrates every day-to-day moments and prevents any possibility to connect or enjoy. This may be one of the first signs of depression. Later, sleep and appetite disturbsnces may follow. Eventually, social withdrawn predominates and paradoxically the last thing lonely people want to do is to reach out.

Lonileness is a dark cage inside that trapped the beautiful minds.

When you notice your family or your friends start to cancel social gathering or stay in bed excessively, it is very important to remind them the beautiful things in life and reach out to them even when they reject it. Your accompany and listening means a lot for a lonely person. Do not underestimate the power of a kind word, a warm hug and a gentle smile. Even in the darkest room, just a spark of light can brighten and warm up the whole room.

If you feel lonely, please reach out to family and friends despite your body is tired and you do not feel like doing so. You can send them a message, call them on the phone, or go for a visit. If you cannot reach anyone at the moment, try something which you used to enjoy, go for walk, or immerse yourself in the nature. The nature is aways the best place to reset and energize lonely mind.

Nature calms people down. It allows you to reflect and feel connected again.

After you’ve tried everything and nothing seemed to work, please consider supportive counseling with counselors. If you ever experience any thoughts to end your life, you are not alone. Please call the 24-hour suicide prevention hotline at 1-800-273-8255. Your moment of loneliness will pass even when you cannot see it.

How does COVID-19 impact mental health?

At beginning of COVID-19, people were in shock and fear. Many decided to hide at home in response to uncertainty. Six months into pandemic, the emergence of anxiety, depression, OCD and eating disorder is evident in the clinic. The severity and prevalence is unusual, though expected.

Several factors have contributed to the increased needs for mental health, including direct threats from an unknown disease, social isolation, and change of daily routines. While social distancing stops the spread of COVID-19, it also leads to sense of loneliness, social isolation and disconnection from others. The effects of social distancing will continue to carry through this winter with expected worsening depression and anxiety during holiday seasons. It is very important to focus on a structured routine. Despite we cannot change the nature course of COVID-19, maintaining a healthy daily routine is very critical for resilience, such as good quality of sleep, balanced diet and regular exercise. Yoga, walk, and meditation can also be very helpful tools to cope with stress in the pandemic.