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Guide children through emotions

Parents can’t prevent children from being affected by the changes caused by COVID-19, but they can influence how children process those changes, says Kisha Radliff, associate professor of school psychology in the College of Education and Human Ecology. She has some hopeful advice for anyone who’s taking care of children right now.

Parents can’t prevent children from being affected by the changes caused by COVID-19, but they can influence how children process those changes, says Kisha Radliff, associate professor of school psychology in the College of Education and Human Ecology. She has some hopeful advice for anyone who’s taking care of children right now.

Take care of yourself first.

Just like we’ve learned on airplanes: Place the symbolic oxygen mask on yourself first. Talk to other parents. Consider starting a gratitude practice. (Radliff has been checking out a free one online with “Happiness Lab” Professor Laurie Santos.) Take a break from work and routine.

Narrate your physical-distancing behaviors.

“Internally we know what we’re doing, but we need to be cognizant of talking out loud [for our kids],” Radliff says. “Think about processing those interactions: ‘We crossed the street because it’s important right now.’ ‘Here’s why I’m wearing a mask.’”

Help them find the words. 

“When we see unusual behaviors, or we’re seeing them more than we did in the past, ask, ‘Are you having a really hard time right now?’ Sometimes they’re telling us with their behaviors. Help them express that by giving them words,” Radliff says. “Then reassure them: ‘It’s OK to feel that way. What can we do differently?’ Sometimes kids will open up when they’re doing activities with you. If we’re walking and talking, they might start saying stuff.”

Let them know you’re feeling it, too.

While parents should modulate their emotions in front of children, they should display and narrate those emotions. “You do want them to see they’re not the only ones who are frustrated. ‘Mommy’s having a hard time, too, so we need to try to be kind with each other and think through these things.’”

Support for parents of young children

The YouTube channel of Ohio State’s Schoenbaum Family Center and Crane Center for Early Childhood Research and Policy features educators reading books, exploring the outdoors, playing with math and even doing preschooler-friendly yoga.

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