Parenting: How to Talk to Kids About COVID-19

How can parents talk about what's happening as a result of COVID-19 with kids of all ages? Montefiore's Chief of Child and Adolescent Psychology, Dr. Sandra Pimentel, discusses how to help kids understand COVID-19 using techniques to encourage talking about their feelings resulting from the life changes and uncertainty they're experiencing because of the pandemic, and how parents can model coping methods to help kids make more sense of their world.

Dr. Sandra Pimentel, Chief of Child and Adolescent Psychology, discussing how to talk to kids about COVID-19.
Transcript

We get asked a lot about how to talk to kids about COVID-19. And by this point, parents have had at least some discussion regarding COVID-19 and its effects with their kids. Early on, there were major transitions for families moving into remote learning, staying at home, and trying to explain the reasons for staying at home, and things like that. And at this point, in our experience, kids may be asking questions about the end of the school year, when is this going to be over? What's gonna happen this summer? And there's still a lot of uncertainty. And so part of what we wanna talk about is how do we talk to kids about COVID-19 now in terms of where we are today? The answer is, in part, it depends. It depends on the age of the child, their developmental level. Parents, you know your kids best. Are they more, someone who's more verbal and likes to talk about things? Are they more likely to express things via something creative or artistic? Are you better off talking to them while you're doing some shared activity? So the way to talk to kids about COVID-19 depends on the age and developmental level and the style of your child. Unsurprisingly, the best way to talk to kids about COVID-19 or any topic for that matter, is to listen. And we wanna listen out for, what are they thinking? What are they worrying about? What are they expressing? Asking them directly? Sometimes parents are scared to ask about feelings and certainly encourage asking directly about what they're thinking, or how they're feeling about a certain situation. What do they have on their mind about how things are going now, or the future, summer? What are they worrying about most? What do they think about when they're going to bed at night? Another strategy is to ask about, what are their friends thinking? What are their friends saying about all of this? And the experience that's happening with COVID-19. That's another strategy for sometimes getting kids to talk about things, either they may agree with their friends on, or disagree with their friends on. Another strategy in terms of talking to kids is expressing an observation. I noticed that you seemed pretty upset when this happened, or I noticed that you were sad, or I noticed that you stopped talking to this particular friend. So expressing an observation as an entry point for discussion and conversation. And parents, you all are likely more fixers, you wanna fix a situation. And with COVID-19, one of the things that we are learning, we are all collectively learning is to tolerate a lot of uncertainty. And we can't fix a lot of the uncertainty that's out there and what's happening. So part of the best first strategy is to validate the feeling. Uncertainty can be scary, it's scary for adults, it's scary for kids. So a starting point in talking to kids is validating their feelings. So if they feel scared, if they feel angry, if they feel frustrated about not seeing their friends. Validating that that stinks. It's hard to feel lonely. It's hard to feel disconnected from your friends. And validating that feeling is a great starting point. You don't have to fix it, just validate the feeling itself. The other strategy also simple and straightforward is to normalize the feeling. We're all feeling angry, frustrated, confused, sad, disconnected. So sharing and normalizing that experience for kids and telling them yeah, it makes sense, we're all feeling a lot of that at different times. And it's okay to feel those kinds of feelings. It's okay to feel sad and confused. It's good for us even to feel anxious. And so what can we do with those feelings? Sometimes we just have to feel the feelings and know that they will pass. And one of the strategies that parents can use in terms of helping their kids cope with some of these feelings is to model their own coping strategies. So you may not be able to fix the uncertainty that comes with the COVID-19. We can't fix necessarily what's gonna happen this summer, or know what's going to happen in the fall with school. But what we can do is have a discussion with kids about how to cope with those feelings. And parents can model that coping. So how do you cope with your feeling? How do you cope with stress? Parents often worry about showing their own feelings to their kids. And it's okay within reason to show your feelings, to show that you're stressed, to show that you need space or to walk away. And to tell kids, I'm feeling really stressed out, so I'm gonna do some deep breathing. Or I'm really anxious and upset about something that happened at work, I'm gonna take a break, I'm gonna call a friend. So giving voice to what you already do as a parent, but saying it on purpose so that you're modeling it for your kids. Even just talking about, when I get upset or when I get anxious, my stomach gets grumbling, or I get nauseous, and just connecting the dots for your kids in terms of how to talk about feelings. Again, these are all part of general emotional health and trying to talk about feelings. But especially now during COVID-19 and everything that's going on, it's probably even more important that parents are talking about these types of things with kids. And I said before we wanna sometimes get rid of those feelings. And sometimes we just have to sit with them. We have to tolerate them, and know that they're gonna get better, you might feel better in a little bit. And we have to sit with those feelings in order for that to happen. Another important sort of coping strategy that parents can rely on is social support. So what does that mean? So who's on your team? Who helps you cope? Who do you call when you feel stressed out and wanna talk about something? Who do you call when you need a laugh? Who do you call or who do you text, or who do you write a letter to, who's on your team? And modeling that for kids, teaching kids to identify, well, when you feel upset, or down, or isolated, because of everything that's going on with COVID, who do you call? Who do you text? Who do you wanna write a letter to? Who do you wanna color with, or color for, and send this coloring project to? And so encouraging and teaching kids to develop social supports is another way. These are all in the spirit of helping kids discuss their feelings, and discuss their feelings specifically with respect to COVID-19. The point about having discussions with kids is not only just listening and trying to help them and trying to make sense of their world, it's also about controlling the information you want them to have. There's a lot of information out there. And in part, whether with younger kids or with older kids, it's important to teach kids to be consumers of information, and good information. So as a parent, I would say, definitely try to limit the amount of news and information that comes in via the news into your household, I know that can be hard. It's exceptionally important for smaller kids and younger kids that they don't have as much access to the news. Try to limit your own access to social media, and just reminders of things that are happening with COVID-19. And definitely try to teach kids to manage their own intake. And these discussions may be different whether a child is younger, you may have more control about the information coming in, the middle school age kids to teenagers. And an understanding that there's a lot of information, so discussions around how to be a good consumer of that information. And that's another strategy for these types of discussions with kids.

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Mental Health and Coping


Mental Health Myths

Is it normal to think about COVID-19 all the time? Montefiore’s Chief Psychologist, Dr. Simon Rego, discusses why it's normal and whether to seek help.

Why am I always anxious? Do I have COVID-19? Will I lose my job? Montefiore’s Chief Psychologist, Dr. Simon Rego, explains how part of our brain works to keep us safe from something that could go wrong, and where and when to seek help for COVID-19 anxiety.

Why can’t I deal with my COVID-19 feelings on my own? Montefiore’s Chief Psychologist, Dr. Simon Rego, explains why it’s not weak to ask for help and why you might need assistance coping with COVID-19.

I’m supposed to be providing COVID-19 help, not asking for it. Montefiore’s Chief Psychologist, Dr. Simon Rego, discusses why healthcare workers should ask for and receive COVID-19 help.

Will people judge me for seeking help for my fears and anxieties about COVID-19? Montefiore’s Chief Psychologist, Dr. Simon Rego, explains ways to overcome concerns about being judged, and why seeking support to cope during this time is perfectly fine and necessary.

I'm just too busy with family and work. How can I find time for my COVID-19 feelings? Montefiore’s Chief Psychologist, Dr. Simon Rego, explains why finding time is important for our self-care, and recommends small things we can do to talk about our COVID-19 feelings that can fit into a busy schedule.

How can a therapist help me cope with COVID-19? Montefiore’s Chief Psychologist, Dr. Simon Rego, explains the tools a therapist can provide to help you handle COVID-19, what happens in a session and what to talk about.

I’ve had therapy, and I’m not sure how it can help with COVID-19? Montefiore’s Chief Psychologist, Dr. Simon Rego, explains what COVID-19 treatment looks like and which approach might work best. 

COVID-19 and Relationships

How can I best stay home with a partner? Montefiore’s Chief Psychologist, Dr. Simon Rego, discusses ways to work through the challenges of staying home with another person, as well as things to work on together.

How can I best stay home alone? Montefiore’s Chief Psychologist, Dr. Simon Rego, shares tools and techniques to help single people stay home, which can help with social isolation.

How do I juggle work, life and COVID-19? Montefiore’s Chief Psychologist, Dr. Simon Rego, discusses ways to maintain focus and a healthy work-life balance during the COVID-19 pandemic.

COVID-19 and Managing Feelings

How do I manage my feelings of anger toward COVID-19? Montefiore’s Chief Psychologist, Dr. Simon Rego, discusses why it's normal to have strong feelings about COVID-19, how to recognize triggers and things we can do to manage anger.

How do I deal with feeling lonely in isolation? Montefiore’s Chief Psychologist, Dr. Simon Rego, discusses managing feelings of isolation during COVID-19, and how to seek help.

How do I deal with my anxiety about finances affected by COVID-19? Montefiore’s Chief Psychologist, Dr. Simon Rego, explains how to manage financial fears during the crisis.

How can I manage addictive behaviors during COVID-19? Montefiore’s Chief Psychologist, Dr. Simon Rego, explains how to avoid negative coping methods during the crisis.

How do I deal with the human toll from COVID-19 and the impact on life as we know it? Montefiore’s Chief Psychologist, Dr. Simon Rego, explains how to cope with the loss of normalcy and changes in our lives as a result of the crisis.

Anxiety Busters

Taking a deep breath can help reduce anxiety. Montefiore’s Supervising Psychologist and Assistant Director of the Trauma-Informed Care Program, Dr. Paul Bulman, demonstrates ways to breathe better when feeling anxious about COVID-19.

Balancing negative thinking with positivity can help reduce anxiety about COVID-19. Montefiore’s Supervising Psychologist and Assistant Director of the Trauma-Informed Care Program, Dr. Paul Bulman, shows how making a gratitude list can spark positive thinking.

Focusing on the moment can help reduce COVID-19 anxiety. Montefiore’s Supervising Psychologist and Assistant Director of the Trauma-Informed Care Program, Dr. Paul Bulman, shares techniques for staying present during this difficult time.

Negative thoughts can create more anxiety. Montefiore’s Supervising Psychologist and Assistant Director of the Trauma-Informed Care Program, Dr. Paul Bulman, provides techniques to combat negative thinking during the COVID-19 crisis, including knowing the triggers and the 3 questions to ask.

Getting a good night's sleep can help combat anxiety caused by the COVID-19 crisis. Montefiore’s Supervising Psychologist and Assistant Director of the Trauma-Informed Care Program, Dr. Paul Bulman, provides techniques for sleeping better during the pandemic.

Keeping your body active is a great way to relieve anxiety and can boost your immune system. Montefiore’s Supervising Psychologist and Assistant Director of the Trauma-Informed Care Program, Dr. Paul Bulman, provides ways to work in regular exercise during the COVID-19 pandemic for physical and mental health.

Essential Workers and COVID-19

Montefiore’s Supervising Psychologist and Director of the Trauma-Informed Care Program, Dr. Dana Crawford, explains how essential workers and their families can handle concerns arising from COVID-19 work.

Montefiore’s Supervising Psychologist and Director of the Trauma-Informed Care Program, Dr. Dana Crawford, explains how the family and close friends of essential workers can navigate concerns arising from their loved ones’ COVID-19 work.

As an essential worker, how can I best handle conversations about COVID-19 with my loved ones? Montefiore’s Supervising Psychologist and Director of the Trauma-Informed Care Program, Dr. Dana Crawford gives essential workers tips on how to have conversations about COVID-19 with loved ones.

If my loved one is an essential worker, how can I best handle sharing my concerns about COVID-19? Montefiore’s Supervising Psychologist and Director of the Trauma-Informed Care Program, Dr. Dana Crawford offers advice on how to communicate about COVID-19 with loved ones who are essential workers.

Surviving COVID-19

What's it like to survive COVID-19? Montefiore’s Dr. Miguelina Germán, Psychologist and Director of Pediatric Behavioral Health Services, shares her personal experience with COVID-19. She talks about quarantining with her family in a two-bedroom apartment, coping with her fiancé contracting COVID-19, asking friends for help and emotionally working through her diagnosis. She also offers advice based on what she learned during this experience.

What happens after recovering from COVID-19? Montefiore’s Dr. Miguelina Germán, Psychologist and Director of Pediatric Behavioral Health Services, shares her personal experience after recovering from COVID-19, and what she learned about symptoms coming back and the importance of self-care after recovery.

Who to tell about your positive COVID-19 diagnosis and when? Montefiore’s Dr. Miguelina Germán, Psychologist and Director of Pediatric Behavioral Health Services, discusses life living with COVID-19, how she decided which family and friends to contact and when was the right time to tell them about her positive diagnosis.

Parenting During COVID-19

How can parents develop resilience in children during the era of COVID-19? Montefiore's Chief of Child and Adolescent Psychology, Dr. Sandra Pimentel, shares some ways parents can create family resiliency, and discusses the value of structure, social support, stress release, focusing on the positive and practicing gratitude.

How can parents talk about what's happening as a result of COVID-19 with kids of all ages? Montefiore's Chief of Child and Adolescent Psychology, Dr. Sandra Pimentel, discusses how to help kids understand COVID-19 using techniques to encourage talking about their feelings resulting from the life changes and uncertainty they're experiencing because of the pandemic, and how parents can model coping methods to help kids make more sense of their world.

How can I help a teenager cope with the life changes and risks caused by COVID-19? Montefiore's Chief of Child and Adolescent Psychology, Dr. Sandra Pimentel, discusses ways to help teens cope with uncertainty and loss due to COVID-19, as well as taking the risks of contracting or spreading the virus seriously.

How can parents manage both their stress and the stress inflicted on their families by COVID-19? Montefiore's Chief of Child and Adolescent Psychology, Dr. Sandra Pimentel, shares techniques to help cope and manage stress in these unprecedented times.

What are red flags I should look for to know if my child needs help? Dr. Sandra Pimentel, Montefiore’s Chief Child and Adolescent Psychologist, shares advice for parents of children struggling during COVID-19 and explains what therapy looks like for children, including virtual health options.

How should parents talk to their kids about the next phase of COVID-19? Dr. Sandra Pimentel, Montefiore’s Chief Child and Adolescent Psychologist, explains what’s important to communicate to children about the ongoing pandemic and how parents can create resiliency in their children by reflecting with them on what has happened, continuing to engage them in safe behaviors and including them in planning ahead. Dr. Pimentel also shares how to handle a child’s worry about the uncertainty of school by validating their feelings and focusing on what we can control.

Addiction During the Era of COVID-19

How is behavioral addiction being affected and manifested during the era of COVID-19? Montefiore’s Director of Addiction Consultation Service, Dr. Howard Forman, describes the impact the pandemic has on those with behavioral addiction, why many people are developing behavioral addiction, and shares what help is available.

How can a person get help for behavioral addiction during the era of COVID-19? Montefiore’s Director of Addiction Consultation Service, Dr. Howard Forman, shares ways to seek help for behavioral addictions that have increased or begun during the era of COVID-19.

How is internet addiction being affected and manifested during the era of COVID-19? Montefiore’s Director of Addiction Consultation Service, Dr. Howard Forman, describes the impact the pandemic has had on those with new or existing internet addictions, and offers guidance on available treatment options.

What are the treatment options for internet addiction during the era of COVID-19? Montefiore’s Director of Addiction Consultation Service, Dr. Howard Forman, shares available treatment options, including ways to receive treatment today from home.

How can the era of COVID-19 motivate recovery from addiction? Montefiore’s Director of Addiction Consultation Service, Dr. Howard Forman, describes how the pandemic has impacted those with existing addictions and describes how this time can be used to recover from addiction.

How can someone struggling with addiction get help during COVID-19? Montefiore’s Director of Addiction Consultation Service, Dr. Howard Forman, discusses how video visits and technology have transformed addiction care for the better during the pandemic, made care accessible to people in a whole new way, and how to get medical help if needed.

How can someone access medication for addiction recovery during the era of COVID-19? Montefiore’s Director of Addiction Consultation Service, Dr. Howard Forman, explains the ways Montefiore eased how people can have access to medication during the era of COVID-19 with more flexible personalized medication pick-up and delivery scheduled tailored to the individual.

What is gambling disorder and help during the era of COVID-19? Montefiore’s Director of Addiction Consultation Service, Dr. Howard Forman, explains what gambling disorder is, how lack of pleasure and activity during the era of Covid-19 created a new wave of gambling addiction for many people, and ways to get and seek help.

How has stress affected addiction during the era of COVID-19? Montefiore’s Addiction Psychiatry Program Director, Dr. Merrill Herman, explains how increased levels of anxiety and depression caused by the pandemic impact addiction, why people self-medicate, and how treatment can make a difference.

 

Pediatrics


MIS-C During the Era of COVID-19

What is Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome (MIS-C) in children, what to look for, and how is it treated? Dr. Nadine Choueiter, Montefiore’s Director of Noninvasive Imaging and Pediatric Cardiology, explains the symptoms of MIS-C, what is known so far about what causes it, and why follow-up care is important after children are discharged from the hospital.

 

Neurosurgery


The Brain and COVID-19

How does COVID-19 impact the brain? Montefiore’s Chief of Division of Cerebrovascular Neurosurgery and Surgical Director of the Montefiore Comprehensive Center for Stroke Care, Dr. David Altschul, explains the neurological symptoms associated with COVID-19 and details when they can occur, who is at risk of experiencing them, and their long-term impact.

What research is Montefiore-Einstein conducting to explore COVID-19’s impact on the brain? Montefiore’s Chief of Division of Cerebrovascular Neurosurgery and Surgical Director of the Montefiore Comprehensive Center for Stroke Care, Dr. David Altschul, shares the details of the ongoing, wide-ranging, multi-disciplinary biomarker analysis to determine who is at higher risk for serious reaction to COVID-19 as well as neurological complications.

Are those with pre-existing neurological conditions at greater risk of getting COVID-19? Montefiore’s Chief of Division of Cerebrovascular Neurosurgery and Surgical Director of the Montefiore Comprehensive Center for Stroke Care, Dr. David Altschul, clarifies the risk of contracting COVID-19 or experiencing recurring symptoms for those with pre-existing neurological conditions.

What symptoms from pre-existing neurological conditions could return with COVID-19? Montefiore’s Chief of Division of Cerebrovascular Neurosurgery and Surgical Director of the Montefiore Comprehensive Center for Stroke Care, Dr. David Altschul, gives examples of symptoms that can be triggered by COVID-19 and when to seek immediate care.

Montefiore’s Chief of Division of Cerebrovascular Neurosurgery and Surgical Director of the Montefiore Comprehensive Center for Stroke Care, Dr. David Altschul, discusses a range of options from the most advanced medical treatments for strokes and seizures to over-the-counter medications for minor neurological symptoms.

Stroke & COVID-19

Why are some COVID-19 patients having strokes? Montefiore’s Medical Director at the Comprehensive Center for Stroke Care, Dr. Charles Esenwa, explains why some COVID-19 patients experience strokes, who is most at risk and what causes these COVID-19-associated strokes.

If I am diagnosed with COVID-19, what can I do to help prevent a stroke? Montefiore’s Medical Director at the Comprehensive Center for Stroke Care, Dr. Charles Esenwa, explains why it’s important to keep taking existing medications while sick with COVID-19.

Dr. Charles Esenwa, Medical Director at Montefiore's Comprehensive Center for Stroke Care, shares the symptoms of a COVID-19-related stroke and what to do.

What is the recovery process for patients who have experienced COVID-19 related strokes? Montefiore’s Dr. Charles Esenwa, Medical Director at the Comprehensive Center for Stroke Care, describes how Montefiore treats the unique challenges of COVID-19 related strokes with a multi-disciplinary team to ensure the best possible chance for long-term recovery.

The Nervous System & COVID-19

How does COVID-19 impact the nervous system? Dr. Richard Zampolin, Neuroradiologist at Montefiore, explains how COVID-19 impacts the nervous system, its potential long-term effects and the research Montefiore is currently conducting in this area.

 

Heart


How does COVID-19 affect the heart? Montefiore’s Division of Cardiology Chief, Dr. Mario Garcia, discusses how COVID-19 affects the heart, what vascular conditions can be caused by COVID-19, who is most at risk, some forms of prevention and when it is important to seek medical care.

What research is Montefiore conducting on the impact COVID-19 has on the heart? Dr. Sandhya Murthy, Attending Cardiologist in Advanced Heart Failure and Transplant at Montefiore, describes what discoveries have been made during the pandemic, the patient groups impacted and how Montefiore’s ongoing research helps guide therapies for the best possible patient outcomes.

What pre-existing health conditions can lead to a higher risk for COVID-19 complications? Dr. Sandhya Murthy, Attending Cardiologist in Advanced Heart Failure and Transplant at Montefiore, describes the conditions that make a patient more vulnerable to severe illness and what precautions those with pre-existing health conditions should take, including heart-healthy habits like exercise and a low-sodium diet.

Trusted Information Resources

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

The leading national public health institute of the United States
 

NY.gov

For the latest COVID-19 guidelines and information from New York State 

World Health Organization

UN agency responsible for international public health