Understanding and Supporting the Emotional Needs of Young Children During the Pandemic

April 7, 2020

Each and every day can bring parents and early childhood educators new challenges. Just like it is important to support young children’s physical needs, addressing the emotional health of a child during the COVID-19 pandemic is crucial. It’s likely that they will not understand why they can’t play outside, as usual, with their friends on a sunny day or why washing their hands so frequently is so important. The Council for Professional Recognition‘s Child Development Associate® (CDA) Credential™ helps educators support social and emotional development of the youngest generation.

I want to take a moment to share some thoughts about how best to support our children’s emotional needs as we all navigate these uncharted waters. We understand that reactions to the pandemic may vary.

Children’s responses to stressful events are unique and varied depending on their age and circumstances. They are sharp observers, and they notice and react to stress in their parents and other adults around them. Some children may be irritable or clingier, while some may regress, demand extra attention or have difficulty with self-care, sleeping and eating. New and challenging behaviors are natural responses, and adults can help by showing empathy, patience and love.

Provide age-appropriate information

Young children can rely on their imaginations when they lack information. Adults should make themselves available for children to ask questions and talk about their concerns.

There are resources to help for all ages including:

Keep children busy

When children are bored, their levels of worry and disruptive behaviors may increase. Children need ample time to engage in play and other joyful or learning experiences without worrying or talking about the pandemic. Art is a wonderful way to help children express their feelings and emotions. Children can paint a picture, have a dance party or make up a play.

Ensure that you are being a sensitive and responsive caring adult

When everyone is under the same roof 24 hours a day, it can get stressful under the best circumstances. It’s important to be sure you are sensitive and responsive to your child. Mealtimes and snack times provide opportunities for conversations about topics of interest to your child, as well as a focused time to discuss how they may be feeling that day.

Make time for self-care too!

Children’s well-being truly depends on your well-being. It’s so important to take care of yourself, now more than ever. Consider the things that make you happy. Is it exercising or mediating? Maybe reading a book or getting outside? Whatever it is, make the time each day to recharge your own batteries.

We will continue to be here for you, standing six feet away. Be well and stay safe.

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