It’s been almost three months since NC schools closed due to COVID-19, and they will remain closed for the rest of the school year. Most young children under five have also been at home and out of formal early learning environments. Extended time off—away from friends, teachers and family routines–can lead to long-standing behavioral, emotional and learning challenges for young children. This is especially true for children who are also experiencing or have experienced other adversity such as unsafe home environments, food insecurity and racism. Promoting protective factors, or buffers, like nurturing parent-child relationships and community supports, can help to protect children against the long-term impact of trauma resulting from COVID-19.
Parents and other caring adults have an important role to play in buffering and addressing children’s social-emotional needs during this time. Child Trends shared the following recommendations to support and protect children’s social-emotional well-being during the pandemic (click here to learn more about each area):
- Understand that children’s reactions to the pandemic may vary.
- Ensure the presence of a sensitive and responsive caregiver.
- Social distancing should not mean social isolation—maintain social connectedness.
- Provide age-appropriate information.
- Create a safe physical and emotional environment by practicing the 3 R’s: Reassurance, Routines, and Regulation.
- Keep children busy.
- Increase children’s self-efficacy.
- Create opportunities for caregivers to take care of themselves.
- Seek professional help if children show signs of trauma that do not resolve relatively quickly.
- Emphasize strengths, hope, and positivity.
Some additional social-emotional health resources for families, educators and providers are included below:
- The Parent/Caregiver Guide to Helping Families Cope with the Coronavirus Disease and other resources by the National Child Traumatic Stress Network provide age-appropriate tips for helping children cope with stress and uncertainty.
- CASEL Cares: Social-Emotional Learning Resources During COVID-19 includes parent and teacher tools and webinars for school-aged children.
- Countering COVID-19 Stigma and Racism: Tips for Parents and Caregivers by the National Association of School Psychologists and other healing and community care resources by Racial Equity Tools for families of color.
- Spanish languages resources from the CDC, Salud America, and telehealth services for families by El Futuro.
- Supporting Individuals with Autism Through Uncertain Times by AFIRM at UNC’s Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute includes a resource for families and caregivers supporting individuals, including young children, with autism spectrum disorder.
- Relaxation Tips for Kids: Benefits, Examples and Resources by Regis College shares deep breathing, mindfulness and other techniques for children experiencing anxiety.
- Sesame Street’s Caring for Each Other resource page includes a variety of videos, self-care ideas and printable activities for parents and providers.
- Prevent Child Abuse NC provides resources for staying connected, remaining active and engaged as a family, and managing stress and anxiety.
- Contact your local SmartStart provider for information about home-visiting and parent education supports, like Triple P or Parents as Teachers, available by phone or video to families in your community.
- Harvard Center on the Developing Child’s guide on How to Support Children During the COVID-19 Outbreak includes tips and videos to help better understand and support children’s social-emotional needs.
- NC Department of Health and Human Services webpage includes tips for talking with children about coronavirus and coping with stress (scroll down to FAQ section).
- NC Department of Public Instruction’s Office of Early Learning includes resources for parents with information from school psychologists, the CDC and PBS kids.
Do you have a resource to share that supports young children’s social-emotional health during COVID-19? Email us and we’ll add it to the list.