Helping Kids Cope With the Anxiety of Quarantine


By now saying “stay safe” instead of “good-bye” to our friends has become second nature. These past few days of being in self-imposed quarantine, continuously checking the coronavirus figures and wondering if, when necessary, we’ll still be able to go back to our home countries or will flights be canceled and borders closed? This Chinese New Year hasn’t been easy on any family and the coming weeks of quarantine won’t be much different.

But us adults aren’t the only ones affected by the sudden change in lifestyle. Kids are too. The first few days might have been fun for them with unlimited video games and the hopeful possibility of their school extending their holiday. But now, they just want to go back and see their friends. And as much as we want to give them their social lives back, it’s still too early to make that decision. Until it’s deemed safe, we need to stay put for a few more days.

Some families we’ve spoken to literally haven’t left their apartment all CNY. That’s a lot of anxiety building up in a short amount of time. We spoke with Dr. Mike Mehrvarz, Ph.D., a licensed child and adult psychologist with extensive training and experience in psychological assessment and treatment for some expert opinions on the current situation.

In terms of dealing with anxiety, what do you suggest for families who are planning on staying indoors for another week?

No matter what the situation is that’s causing us anxiety, it is not all developed only by exterior things or situation, but mostly by how we perceive it and naturally respond to it in many folds.

Our thoughts are the origin of our emotion, by keeping it under conscious control and replacing with real positive things in life or situations we are in, we can make a big difference coping with anxiety.

Our brain is quite powerful and you can make use of it especially during this recent coronavirus outbreak for your own good. You can travel far and wide simply by closing your eyes and imagining it in your mind. This is the power of the mind.

It is all in your power to make staying home a pleasure rather than a hindrance. As long as we have our hope, goals, and creativity, spending time being quarantined at home can’t stop us from having our day with happiness, free of anxiety, and enjoying the extra time we have these days to be together with our loved ones.

Look at this as an opportunity to do what you’ve never had time for at home. Have a goal you want to accomplish each day on top of regular things. You can also use the following tips to improve your and your family’s happiness.

Have a regular sleep schedule and wake up early together.
Take control of your schedule so that you feel in control of your life, not life controlling you! Believe me, It will make you feel better.
Follow a list of chores for the day, such as cooking a delicious meal, watching your movies, playing games, etc. Just do it as a family.
Spend one-hour exercising. There’s no need for fancy equipment. Simply use the mats on the floor. Doing numerous exercises will make all of you feel better and stronger.

For young children, this has been a difficult experience to be quarantined at home. Do you have any suggestions for parents on how they can ease that anxiety for their children?

Children don’t have the same psychological protection adults do and cannot express themselves in the same manner. Therefore, they get easily misunderstood and emotionally hurt much deeper. Children need more help and understanding from their parents during this time to reduce the chance of them developing Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) in the future.

There are many things parents can do with their children at home to help children feel happy as they are stuck at home for the time being.

Have weekly meetings with their children each discussing their life affair, stress, happy things, how every day they accomplished something, even very small as doing house chores. This will teach children a sense of responsibility, help them become more emotionally close to their parents and family. This activity also allows children to express their feelings and releases their fears.
Parents are their most important teacher. Teach your kids the correct ways of washing hands, hygiene, using masks, why we need it, and more.
Have reading sessions. Choose your favorite book; read and discusses what they learned at the end of the session. Parents can also help children with their schoolwork, as they will miss some lessons during this time.
When it’s nice out, take your child to a park, away from crowds, and teach them about nature. This will raise their curiosity and they can learn first hand about the environment they are living in.
Explain why they’re not back in school yet and basic rules of hygiene and staying healthy.
Children have difficulty expressing themselves verbally. Have a family group art & drawing session where everyone draws their favorite things and at the end, everyone talk about their drawings and feelings. This gives the child and the whole family a chance to express themselves and also release stress.
Make family group exercises a daily habit. This will help children to release some pressure and the whole family becomes physically stronger and happier.

Finally, some stressful situations or trauma can sometimes, later on, cause PTSD. This depends on a person’s coping style and personality factors. If your children show signs of PTSD in the future, which could be associated with trauma or being in a stressful situation, get them psychological help from a child psychologist to help them overcome this disorder.