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Kids Get Stressed Out Too. Here's How You Can Talk Them Through It

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Jeanie Lindsay
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IPB News

School closures are one major side effect of concerns about the spread of COVID-19, and with parents and kids cooped up for weeks, child psychologists say it's important to talk to kids.

Child psychologist and Indiana University professor Beth Trammell says it's best for parents to to talk with their children about major stress-inducing events – a school closing pandemic, for example – since they'll likely hear about what's going on anyway and might pick up misinformation.

"It's easier to talk about it on the front end, rather than your kid comes to you in a panic and now you're kind of having to backpedal," she says.

Trammell uses a handy acronym, PRESS, as a guide: First, prepare the conversation and reflect on what kids need to know. Then explore what questions they have – Trammell says they might not be scared, just curious. After that, share what you know, and reassure them.

LEE MAS: ¿Qué Necesita Saber Acerca Del Coronavirus? Tenemos Respuestas.

READ MORE: What Do You Need To Know About Coronavirus? We’ve Got Answers.

But Trammell says parents don't have to make it a big deal.

"I would recommend just like weaving it in while you're cooking dinner or you're just kind of hanging out like, 'hey, have you heard about what's going on?' and then going from there," she says.

Parents could notice significant changes in behavior with their kids too, likely caused by the major disruptions to their regular routines. 

And that's why another expert, school psychologist Emily Morgan-Smitley, says when parents do approach any tough conversation on tricky subjects it's key to listen first. She says figuring out what kids know – and what they want to know – is a crucial first step. 

"Listen to what questions they have, what information they've received, and so that way you can better address where they kind of are in their understanding of whatever is going on right now," Morgan-Smitley says.

Morgan-Smitley says sometimes kids feel powerless, too. She suggests letting younger kids cope through play, like pretending to be superheroes who practice good hygiene to fight evil germs. She also says being honest – and age appropriate – about what you know and what could happen in the future is vital, especially to build trust. 

Gov. Eric Holcomb announced this week schools will remain closed until May 1.

Contact Jeanie at jlindsa@iu.edu or follow her on Twitter at @jeanjeanielindz.

This is a rapidly evolving story, and we are working hard to bring you the most up-to-date information. However, we recommend checking the websites of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or the Indiana State Department of Health for the most recent numbers of COVID-19 cases.

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