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The 5 Rs: Helping kids cope with the pandemic

The 5 Rs: Helping kids cope with the pandemic

Health
Mother Comforting Child

Coping with the COVID-19 pandemic can be tough for kids. Children and teens may lack the maturity and emotional bandwidth to deal with sudden changes, uncertainty and disappointments.
Dr. Jill Aiken, a pediatrician with Tidelands Health Pediatrics in Myrtle Beach, says there are steps parents can take to help their kids through these uncertain times.
“Kids are resilient, but they need support from their parents, especially when faced with uncertainty and challenges,” she says.
To start, parents should ensure children — including teens — get a minimum of eight hours of sleep each night and eat a healthy diet with lots of fresh vegetables and a limited amount of processed foods.
Additionally, she encourages parents to consider taking these steps:

1. Reassure kids they are safe

Dr. Aiken says parents should reassure children they’ll be OK. Empower them to protect themselves by reinforcing preventive measures such as regularly washing their hands for 20 seconds, wearing a mask in public and staying six feet away from other people.

2. Remain calm

Kids pick up on their parents’ emotional states, Dr. Aiken says.
“So if you are highly agitated or upset, your kids probably will be, too,” she says. “Model your behavior so they’ll observe how you react to things.”

3. Reserve time to talk each night

Kids need to decompress, and not just during times of uncertainty but during regular life as well, Dr. Aiken says.
“Kids tend to bottle things up, but they really need a chance to talk things out,” she says.
Give children of all ages the opportunity to talk – not only about topics or situations that have made them anxious or upset, but the good things in their lives, too.

4. Retain a set schedule

Dr. Aiken says kids tend to respond well when things happen in a predictable way. Try dividing the day up into blocks so they know what to expect.

5. Remove distractions

Too much exposure to negative news can be upsetting for kids.
Instead of keeping the TV on and tuned to the latest news about COVID-19, Dr. Aiken encourages parents to turn off the television and instead use a device to catch up on the latest COVID-19 developments.
“Even if kids don’t understand what they’re seeing, it can be upsetting nonetheless,” she says.

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In addition, Dr. Aiken says parents should be on the lookout for warning signs that might indicate their child isn’t coping well.
Bursts of anger, changes in sleeping or eating habits, body aches or headaches, poor attention span and regression in toileting routines warrant a visit to a physician or other qualified care provider, she says.
“If you have any concerns, reach out to us,” she says. “We’re here to help.”

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