How to Help Kids Manage Emotions During COVID-19

April 16, 2020

During COVID-19, parents and caregivers are asking how to help kids manage emotions during this trying time. Katy Reynolds, LPC, shares three tips for guardians with children of all ages.

1) Watch Movies or Read Books About Emotions

reading about emotions can help children process their emotions during covid-19

Have you seen the movie Inside Out? Or read The Way I Feel by Janan Cain? Narratives like these can help children understand that they’re not alone in their feelings and start to process the things they may be bottling up during lockdown.

It seems simple, but watching or reading as a family creates an easy segway for conversation to talk about managing and owning emotions.

2) Include A Daily Verbal Check-In

As you’re creating and adjusting to a new schedule as a family, include a 5 to 10-minute verbal check-in to see how your kids are doing. Ask about their perspective, how they feel about what’s going on, or any feelings that are coming up during lockdown.

You can model this and start the conversation by saying, “Today, I was feeling (insert emotion), but then I (action). How has lockdown been making you feel?” This modeling skill is crucial for kids who have a hard time expressing themselves. It also helps the children understand that they’re allowed to have those same feelings and that they can process them, just as you have.

We recommend scheduling this check-in during snack time or lunch/dinner.

art can help children work through emotions and feelings during the coronavirus lockdown

For non-verbal children or kids who prefer not to express themselves with words, break out the play dough or paper and pens. Set a time for arts and crafts where your child can draw, mold, paint, or act out their emotions.

3) Throw In Some “Feeling Words”

Sometimes, during big behaviors, children have trouble pinpointing their emotions in the moment. As caregivers, we can calmly express how we feel the child is reacting. An example would be:

“Jill, I see you’re crying and yelling “no”. Do you think maybe you’re sad and we need to take a few deep breaths together?”

Your child may agree that they’re sad, or they may tell you they’re really feeling angry, disappointed, or frustrated. “It’s important that no matter what a child expresses to you, pick it up and run with it,” says ChildSavers therapist Katy Reynolds, LPC. Table your perception about their feelings in that moment and understand that their emotions are valid.

4) Make music together

making music together is a great way to process emotions with children

If you don’t have a child’s xylophone, piano, or a musical instrument in your home, sing at the top of your lungs or bang on some pots and pans. You can also have a dance party or act out a scene if you prefer. As they begin to express themselves, you can start to read into their emotions and ask how they’re feeling after their “performance”.

These are best “practices”, meaning they need to be practiced! Try a combination of these exercises over time to see which works best for your child.

Watch Katy’s tips for parents who want to help children process their emotions during COVID-19:

children's mental health videos with childsaversKaty Reynolds, LPC, is a school-based therapist here at ChildSavers. While we are still offering clinic-based therapy during COVID-19, we have shifted our efforts to teletherapy to protect the health and safety of our children. Our clinicians, like Katy, are now serving children and families in the comfort of their home during the pandemic. Thank you for your support in continuing to provide children’s mental health and development services to Richmond’s most vulnerable children.