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Managing Your Family’s Emotional Wellbeing During COVID-19

COVID-19 and the disruptions it is causing in our daily lives may be making you, your child and family feel uncertain, anxious or scared. It is common for these feelings to be heightened by the stress you experienced or are experiencing during your child’s pediatric brain tumor diagnosis and treatment. Below are recommendations from the CDC to help parents and caregivers take care of themselves and their children.

Tips for Helping Caregivers Cope

In the Pediatric Brain Tumor Foundation’s Community Health Needs Assessment, 80% of parents and caregivers of children with brain tumors expressed significant worry about the future, and 45% reported often neglecting their own well-being at considerable personal cost.

As the CDC explains, it is critical for parents and caregivers to take care of themselves during this time:
“Children and teens react, in part, on what they see from the adults around them. When parents and caregivers deal with the COVID-19 calmly and confidently, they can provide the best support for their children.”

The following are a few ways you can support yourself during this time:

  • Take breaks from watching, reading, or listening to news stories, including social media. Hearing about COVID-19 repeatedly can be upsetting.
  • Take care of your body. Take deep breaths, stretch, or meditate. Try to eat healthy, well-balanced meals, exercise regularly, get plenty of sleep, and avoid alcohol and drugs.
  • Make time to unwind. Try to do some other activities you enjoy.
  • Connect with others. Talk with people you trust about your concerns and how you are feeling.

Call your healthcare provider if stress gets in the way of your daily activities for several days in a row.

You can also reduce stress in yourself and others by sharing the facts about COVID-19 and understanding the actual risk to yourself and people you care about. When you share accurate information about COVID-19 you can help make people feel less stressed and allow you to connect with them.

Tips for Helping Children Cope

Children and teens may also experience their own anxiety and fear from news surrounding COVID-19, not being able to attend school or see their friends.  During this time, it’s important to remember that not all children and teens respond to stress in the same way.

Some common changes to watch for include:

  • Excessive crying or irritation in younger children
  • Returning to behaviors they have outgrown (for example, toileting accidents or bedwetting)
  • Excessive worry or sadness
  • Unhealthy eating or sleeping habits
  • Irritability and “acting out” behaviors in teens
  • Poor school performance or avoiding school
  • Difficulty with attention and concentration
  • Avoidance of activities enjoyed in the past
  • Unexplained headaches or body pain
  • Use of alcohol, tobacco, or other drugs

There are many things you can do to support your child:

  • Take time to talk with your child or teen about the COVID-19 outbreak. Answer questions and share facts about COVID-19 in a way that your child or teen can understand.
  • Reassure your child or teen that they are safe. Let them know it is ok if they feel upset. Share with them how you deal with your own stress so that they can learn how to cope from you.
  • Limit your family’s exposure to news coverage of the event, including social media. Children may misinterpret what they hear and can be frightened about something they do not understand.
  • Try to keep up with regular routines. If schools are closed, create a schedule for learning activities and relaxing or fun activities.
  • Be a role model. Take breaks, get plenty of sleep, exercise, and eat well. Connect with your friends and family members.”

The CDC has published a fact sheet for parents and caregivers titled, “Helping children cope during and after a disaster.” You may find some of the tips contained in this sheet relevant to supporting your child through the COVID-19 pandemic. You can also find additional tools provided or recommended by the PBTF here.

The Pediatric Brain Tumor Foundation is here for your family throughout and after COVID-19. Find more information and resources in our COVID-19 Resource Center for Families of Children with Brain Tumors.