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Cleveland Doctor Suggests How to Help Kids Cope With Anxiety About COVID-19

Social distancing and staying at home can be cause for anxiety in children and young adults.

Dr. Jason Lambrese, a pediatric and adolescent psychiatrist at Cleveland Clinic, has compiled tips for children and parents to cope with these feelings in a recent paper published in the Cleveland Clinic Journal of Medicine.

"A lot of the patients and families I've been talking to over the last couple of months since the pandemic started... are sort of struggling a little bit," he said. "I've just seen parents have a hard time knowing exactly what they can do to really help their children through it."

Lambrese recommends parents be open and honest with their kids about the coronavirus, but advises not to go into more detail than they can handle.

“It’s really important to know your child, and know how much information in general they find helpful,” Lambrese said. “Maybe some older kids or teenagers can understand a little bit more information than some of the younger kids.”

He also suggests keeping a regular daily routine balancing school and recreational activities.

His advice for the summer months is to keep a list of your family’s favorite activities that can still be done while being physically distant, and pull from that list when kids get restless or bored. He suggests arts and crafts projects, taking walks or staying home and reading.

“During activity time, pull from the hat and say, ‘what do we want to work on now?’” he said. “I think sometimes if we just wake up every morning like ‘what are we gonna do today’, we sort of tend to do nothing, and so I think being really proactive about that."

One tip he has for kids is to stay connected with their friends through virtual hang-outs.

“Why don’t you all watch a movie together, sort of sync up and watch in your own homes at the same time, but watch it while you’re all on FaceTime,” Lambrese said. “Whatever you would normally do together, can we somehow adapt that?”

He also said parents and kids should give themselves a break if they are feeling overwhelmed adapting to changes in daily life, such as not being able to see friends and family in person.

“It’s okay to feel sad about that, and it’s okay that we feel like that’s hard, and it’s okay that we feel angry,” he said. “Those are normal feelings, and talk about that and empathize together.”

Lambrese said if kids are struggling or feeling more anxious than usual, reach out to their pediatrician for help.

He also points to online resources from the American Psychiatric Association and the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.

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