Community Resource Guide
Parents and guardians should know that comforting children and teens during a pandemic such as COVID-19 is essential. The Army Community Resource Guide provides lists of community services available at installations, health care options and awareness activities for Army families. (Photo Credit: Army Public Health Center photo illustration) VIEW ORIGINAL

During a pandemic when social distancing is mandated by the government, tensions can rise as family members are spending more time in each other’s presence. School closures and general uncertainty around COVID-19 can impact family members in different ways. Parents and guardians should know that comforting children and teens during a pandemic such as COVID-19 is essential. Children and teens can sense when adults feel nervous or have anxiety about a situation. Having the news on continually reporting on COVID-19 hotspots can add to children’s distress about the situation. Paying too much attention to things we cannot change can leave family members feeling constant worry. Below are some general tips for parents and guardians.

In troubling times, it’s important to comfort your child or teen. It is helpful to talk to your child or teen about how you are feeling and how they are feeling. When communicating, it is important to come down your child’s level both verbally and physically. Verbally, try to use age-appropriate language that your child can easily understand. Physically, come down to your child’s level either by kneeling, sitting, or stooping. This will make eye contact much easier to maintain, and your child is much less likely to feel intimidated when they are eye to eye.

Be honest with your children and share with them how you may not have all the answers regarding COVID-19 (or whatever the situation is) and that you may also have fears about the disease. While expressing your concerns, it is important to instill hope.

This may also be a good time to share developmentally appropriate history lessons. You may try explaining that the world has experienced numerous pandemics before, and most people lived through events like the Spanish flu pandemic of 1918. You could also discuss the benefits of living through a pandemic such as building psychological resiliency and strengthening of the immune system after exposure to certain viruses.

You can also use this time to encourage your child to learn more about how diseases begin. You can explain that we can learn a lot of different, interesting things through studying diseases such as how to slow or even prevent the spread of diseases. Local libraries with online resources or the MWR online library and other on-line references are great resources to learn about various topics.

Creating and following a predictable schedule is important for families. This can help you establish expectations and a healthy structure that may result in a calmer house. Establishing a routine that includes time for work and recreation helps your children understand the balance between work, critical functions and play. When children and teens have a predictable, daily routine they know that they are in a secure, loving environment that establishes a sense of normalcy. So, keep the mealtimes, school hours, homework hours, reading, exercising, chore-lists, bed-time and time spent caring for pets (if applicable) about the same time each day.

It is important to show positive affection towards kids and tell them how important they are to you. Taking time to do fun family activities like taking walks, playing games and talking can help calm family members. Family time strengthens shared values, beliefs and interests.  Also, using time to check- in on other family members and friends using digital platforms (such as Google Hangouts, Skype, Facebook Live, or the telephone) to stay connected while physically distancing.

Conducting a risk assessment of the family’s health is essential. Currently, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggests other co-morbid conditions could put you at higher risk (diabetes, heart disease, immunocompromised diseases, renal failure, liver failure, severe obesity body mass index [BMI] >40, etc.). Contact your primary care provider if you have questions about your health. If a family member experiences fever, cough, and shortness of breath, they could be exhibiting symptoms associated with COVID-19.

If tensions in the home become too much to bear, reach out to a local behavioral health or family advocacy provider. During COVID-19, many clinics are offering telemedicine allowing you to see a provider from the comforts of your own home.

Here are some excellent resources:

COVID-19 information:

  • Army Public Health Center COVID-19 communication products
  • The Military Health System Nurse Advice Line is available 24/7 by phone, web chat, and video chat. Call 1-800-874-2273 option #1
  • Army COVID-19 Information Hotline for trusted resources and answers to your questions! 1-800-984-8523 Overseas DSN 312-421-3700 Stateside DSN 421-3700.

Army Resources:

  • ARMY OneSource provides information assistance and a network of services to support Soldiers and their Families:
  • The Community Resource Guide provides lists of community services available at installations, health care options, awareness activities
  • MILTARY OneSource provides 24/7 confidential peer support to Service Members, Veterans, and military families. Phone 800-342-9647.
  • Military Crisis Line provides confidential support 24/7 via internet chat, phone 1-800-273-TALK (8255), or text 838255.

The Army Public Health Center focuses on promoting healthy people, communities, animals and workplaces through the prevention of disease, injury and disability of Soldiers, military retirees, their families, veterans, Army civilian employees, and animals through population-based monitoring, investigations, and technical consultations.