Therapist Kimberly Malloy recommends parents remember that “anxiety can be contagious” when addressing the COVID-19 pandemic with their children.
Malloy — also an executive coach and founder of the Center for Relational Health LV — said parents should focus on addressing their own anxiety before having a conversation with their children.
“We need to acknowledge that it’s normal for us to have some anxiety and fear about what’s going on,” she said. “This is unprecedented so, for most of us, we have not lived through something like this.”
Malloy recommends parents start by taking deep breaths: Breathe in through the nose and out through the mouth 10 times. Once you are calm, create a safe environment to talk to your children. Be sure to validate their concerns and emotions during the conversation.
“The last thing you want to tell them is ‘don’t worry about it; it’s no big deal,’ ” she said. “This will just create a story inside their own head that says, ‘it’s not safe to talk about emotions with my parents.’ ” Instead, Malloy said parents should strive to create an environment where children feel safe to talk openly about their emotions, thoughts and fears.
“Let them know you are paying attention,” she said. “Say, ‘I hear you saying this; I can see why that is scary.’ ” This is also a good time for parents to address where their child is getting information. Is it from a friend or social media? Let them know top researchers and scientists are working on COVID-19 24/7, and that they should only get information from the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Finally, get your child thinking about what’s in their circle of control. “What can they do that’s going to be beneficial for not only themselves but others?” Malloy said. “Doing something for someone else helps with depression and anxiety.” Malloy’s suggestions include having children write letters or draw pictures to be delivered to local seniors, or even just going on a walk with them and getting outside.
MORE ABOUT KIMBERLY MALLOY – Kimberly Malloy is the founder of the Center for Relational Health LV, 8879 W. Flamingo Road, Suite 101. She is a licensed therapist and AAMFT Approved Supervisor in the state of Nevada in private practice, and holds a Master of Science in counseling, with a focus on Marriage, Family & Child Therapy.
For more information about the Center for Relational Health LV, visit CRH-LV.org