Gary Maslow, MD, is a pediatrician, a child and adolescent psychiatrist, and a parent.
“My children have been asking my wife and I about COVID-19," he said.
Whether your child asks you directly about the novel coronavirus or not, Maslow said broaching the subject is important.
“You want to talk with your children about what they are hearing and seeing," he said.
Not sure how to start these conversations? Maslow recommends reading The National Child Traumatic Stress Network's Outbreak Fact Sheet. It provides guidance on holding family discussions, such as emphasizing the protective steps being taken to keep everyone safe. It also suggests having the family practice prevention techniques, like proper hand washing, together.
While having these conversations regularly is helpful for reducing stress associated with the pandemic, it is equally important to maintain some form of a routine. Maslow advises parents to continue to have meals at the same time, to plan a fun activity daily and to send children to bed at same hour they did before the outbreak.
“Some boundaries are good because they prevent a child from dysregulating," Maslow said.
And whether it's an early morning jog or logging off of electronics for an hour each day, Maslow also recommends parents carve out some time for themselves for self-care. He recognizes this is a unique time in history and encourages parents to reach out to Duke's network of mental health professionals should they or their children need to talk.
“We've transitioned to telephone and video visits," Maslow said. “There are 200 of us – from psychiatrists to social workers to psychologists – available and ready to support you."
For more resources, including phone numbers for contacting a mental health professional, visit the Duke COVID Response website.