Skip to Navigation Skip to Search Skip to Content
Search All Centers

Helping Kids With Their Emotions During COVID-19 Pandemic

Read Transcript
View next

Published on July 7, 2020

COVID-19 has caused a lot of disruption in children's lives and the structure that they depend on to feel secure. With no school, no playing outside with friends, no sports and no seeing extended family members, kids may be feeling anxious about these disruptions. How can parents help their kids understand what is happening and how to manage the feelings they are having due to the changes in their daily lives brought on by coronavirus? What can parents do to make this time better for kids?

MPN patient and author Ruth Fein released a new book “A Crazy Year - It Isn’t Easy!” set during the pandemic aimed to help children understand and cope with change. Here, Ruth is joined by child and adolescent therapist Dr. Sierra Wait to discuss how the book can be used as a tool to address children’s emotional needs and equip them to deal with crises, even beyond COVID-19. 

Featuring

Transcript | Helping Kids With Their Emotions During COVID-19 Pandemic

Please remember the opinions expressed on Patient Power are not necessarily the views of our sponsors, contributors, partners or Patient Power. Our discussions are not a substitute for seeking medical advice or care from your own doctor. That’s how you’ll get care that’s most appropriate for you.

Ruth Fein:

Hi, and thanks for joining us on Patient Power today. I'm Ruth Fein, and I'm really pleased to be here to host this segment. I've been on Patient Power a few times as a patient advocate. I'm actually a health writer, but I'm an advocate for various rare diseases, one of which I happen to have, which is an MPN, myeloproliferative neoplasms. And I've been on a few sessions that were highlighting information for patients with MPNs. So thanks. Today, we're doing a segment on children's emotional needs and some of the things that we can do to help them deal with the changes and challenges and crises in their lives. So I'm joined by Dr. Sierra Wait. And Dr. Wait is a PhD with ECS Psychological Services in Saratoga Springs, New York, where I am upstate New York, and her clinical work has a specific focus on trauma-informed care, specifically working with children, adolescents, and parents. So welcome, Dr. Wait.

Dr. Wait:

Thank you. Thank you for having me. I'm excited to be here.

Ruth Fein:

Absolutely. As you know, in March and April, I wrote and published a children's book called A Crazy Year-It Isn't Easy. So I want to start the conversation around that book and then move on. But I'll first tell you that I wrote this book because it was the beginning of the pandemic and it was the last gathering in my own living room, family was here and we were all talking about what this social distancing was going to look like. It was brand new. It was literally two weeks since they called it a pandemic. And I realized after 10 or 15 minutes of a family discussion, that the only child in the room, my nine-year-old grandson, Aiden hadn't said a word.

And so I turned to him and I asked him, "Well, what do you think about all this? This is crazy. You can't go outside. You can't see your friends." School just closed like the day before. So my discussion with him prompted me writing this book. And because it's new for all of us, obviously, but I felt then, and we certainly all acknowledge now that children will be affected by this for a long time, if not forever. So I wrote the book as a tool, primarily for parents and teachers, but certainly for children who can read on their own as well. Aiden tells his story, and it starts with him being very sad because the book intentionally takes place amid life changes. Because the pandemic isn't happening, I mean, COVID isn't happening in a vacuum, right? It's happening with all of our lives still going on.

So in the beginning of the book, he's really sad about everything happening and not being able to go out with his friends and not be able to go to school to just soccer. And, as the story progresses, he starts talking about all the things happening around him that are very hopeful. And so it becomes a story about not just acknowledging challenges, and fears, anxieties, but also dealing with them so that the next time we're faced with something, we have some better tools to deal with it. So, Dr. Wait, you've read the book. What were your thoughts as a clinician working with children? Specifically, how do you think the book will help kids and how do you see it as a tool for parents and children? And, really, how do you see the book work for you in your own practice?

Dr. Wait:

Yeah, those are great questions. I really liked the book and I think you accomplished the goal that you set out to do, is really make it a tool. Books are a great way to learn and emotions are something that we need to really learn about, right? We need to recognize them, identify them, and then learn how do we manage them? And we can't just ignore them, or they're going to pop up in a way that maybe we don't want them to. And so I think that it's a really great tool for teaching kids about how to cope with their feelings. And it starts off right in this place of everything around us is new and uncontrollable and scary. And I think you did a nice job putting it into reality, right? So like you said, it doesn't just happen in a vacuum, right?

He's a kid of divorced parents, which a lot of kids are, and there's half-siblings and step-siblings, and life goes on and parents work. And so, putting it in that context, I think is also helpful because it's not just about COVID and quarantine, it's about how do we cope with larger, different life circumstances. And what I really liked about it is, if you think about a therapeutic tool, it's really about learning how our thoughts, our feelings, and our behaviors are all connected and how you can really change the way that you look at something to impact how you feel. And I think the book does a great job of showing that process in Aiden. So, he's looking at all of the maybe sad or scary things and then at the end, he's able to change the way that he's viewing things and he's looking at the positive things, or he's looking at the people who are helping, or what are the bonuses of having siblings, things like that.

You talked about how could I use that, or how could parents, or teachers, or kids themselves? And so, I think there's really two clear ways that I thought of that it could be used. One is reading it with them, kids, and asking how they identify with parts of it. So, read a page and then kind of put it to them like, "Do you relate to Aiden?" Or, "What do you think about what Aiden's going through?" Sometimes kids have a hard time talking about their feelings, but they can project onto other characters, so they can talk about, oh, well, yeah, maybe he's feeling this and maybe he's feeling this, and we can kind of infer, okay, well, maybe that's a reflection of how you're feeling.

And I also like the idea of having kids create their own story. We learn a lot about ourselves through kind of creating our own narrative and really thinking through our ourselves and how we feel about things and our reactions to things by writing it down or journaling or creating a book, really just telling our story.

Ruth Fein:

Yeah. I love that idea. In fact, I had the pleasure of reading the book with Aiden to his third-grade class last week, obviously, virtually. And there are discussion questions, questions for discussion at the end of the book for parents and teachers specifically, but we used those questions and for discussion purposes on the virtual reading to his class, and what I got back from the students was just wonderful. Exactly as you're saying, they really welcomed the opportunity to talk about how they were feeling the same things as Aiden was and that they hadn't really necessarily talked about that. And it was somewhat of a relief for them to be able to talk to their buddies and say, "Wow, I'm not the only one feeling this way."

Dr. Wait:

It's a nice way to connect, right? I think sometimes as adults, we try to protect kids from things. And I think part of that is almost not giving them any information or very limited information. But I think we’ve got to give kids more credit sometimes because they pick up on our changes, they pick up on changes that they see. And so they're still maybe thinking the things, they're just not talking about them. So I think it's a good way to have a conversation that's very age-appropriate with them.

Please remember the opinions expressed on Patient Power are not necessarily the views of our sponsors, contributors, partners or Patient Power. Our discussions are not a substitute for seeking medical advice or care from your own doctor. That’s how you’ll get care that’s most appropriate for you.

Recommended for You

View next