How You Can Help Your Child Cope During COVID-19

Adapted from the Brain Architects Podcast with Jack Shonkoff, Harvard Center on the Developing Child

Adults are really struggling with the pressures and tensions of this time. When we’re feeling significant stress, anxiety, unease and even depression about what’s going on, you don’t have as much energy to be on your best game at all times.

For everyone, feeling some sense of safety and control brings your stress system back down. And none of us are capable of feeling safe and secure all by ourselves, all of the time. So parents supporting each other, and interactions with extended family, with your community—all of these are necessary. We all need relationships to help us deal with stress.

Coping with stress can also start as simply as taking deep breaths. Especially if you feel like you’re getting very stressed out. It’s not just a mindset thing, it actually helps to bring your blood pressure and your heart rate down. So take a deep breath and a slow exhale.

For children, two very important things make stress tolerable. One is to provide a sense of safety in the children—a sense that you are being taken care of in spite of what is going on around you. You can do this during visits with your child by reassuring your child that you’re safe, and just spending time together.

Second is helping a child develop a sense of being able to cope. For that, play is probably the most important thing, because play is how the brain builds strong circuits for resilience. So create opportunities to play with your child and be comfortable with following your child’s lead. That will be tremendously protective for your child.

Read the full interview and see more resources from the Harvard Center on the Developing Child:

Read Rise’s TIPS on visiting children during the Pandemic:

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