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How to help kids deal with ‘big feelings’ during COVID-19

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For parents, helping children cope during the COVID-19 pandemic may be as simple as listening, Steven Marans argues.

Children are struggling with difficult issues, says Marans, a child and adult psychoanalyst at Yale University Medicine and chief of the Trauma Section at the Child Study Center.

In a year marked by COVID-19, discussions around racial justice, a crashing economy, and a divisive presidential election, he says parents need to first acknowledge their own emotions and stress reactions in order to be most attentive to their child’s responses to recent events.

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“Then, if children are having ‘big feelings’—or showing signs of their distress—it’s an opportunity to hit the pause button and help them recognize and reflect on those feelings,” Marans says.

Marans has worked closely with previous White House administrations, members of Congress, and other leaders to address mental health and other issues related to trauma, terrorism, and national disasters.

Here, he explains how to help children understand their feelings around the pandemic and what has been a difficult year in general:

The Trauma Section of the Yale Child Study Center has a tip sheet for adults called Understanding and Coping with Reactions During the Pandemic (also available in Spanish).

The National Child Traumatic Stress Network also offers resources for parents helping children with feelings of grief and trauma here.

Source: Kathy Katella for Yale University

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