How to Help Your Kids Navigate the Impacts of COVID-19

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By Suzanne Grimmesey, MFT, County of Santa Barbara, Department of Public Health

The uncertainty, fear and myriad of changes created by the COVID-19 pandemic has had a tremendous impact on everyone, but kids and teens may have an especially tough time coping emotionally.

Children have been cooped up for weeks with no in-person school, sports or play dates.  Not being able to socialize with their friends may leave kids feeling depressed, hopeless anxious and angry.  

Now, as we begin to reopen communities and facilities, it may be hard to get children and especially teens to take safety protocols seriously, but it is vital that they do.  How we talk to our kids is as important as what we say to them.  To help you and your kids navigate their emotions and new ways of living, here are 7 tips you may find useful:

  1. Hear your child out.  Try to understand where your children are coming from with any issues they may have, such as feeling that wearing a face mask makes them look stupid or feeling like they just have to meet up with their friends at the park.  Try to make something work for them and for you.  Perhaps you can let them choose or decorate their own mask to wear.  As for meet ups, offer your OK if they agree to wear their mask and bring along hand sanitizer.  Most importantly, let them express their feelings about missing friends and activities.

  2. Empathize and Validate! It’s probably been awhile since you were a teenager, but you may recall, for teens, friends are their life.  Not being able to hang out with their friends, enjoy activities together and meet in person can feel devastating.  As a parent, work to get a clear sense of what your kids want and need right now.   Listen and empathize with them.  Hey, it’s been hard on you too, and you can share that with them! You can develop rules and guidelines for your kids to venture out, while at the same time, giving them space to express themselves, be heard and be validated by you.

  3. Create perspective.  Three months of quarantine and physical distancing can feel like forever to kids (and adults too).  Now would be a good time to remind your kids that this will not go on forever, but it is important that we all adhere to safety precautions so that we remain safe.  

  4. Stick to the facts. This generation of kids has access to more information than ever before.  As a parent, it is important that we help them understand what they need to know and talk to them about what they are reading and hearing.  Also, resist the urge to scare your children into complying with new safety precautions; rather encourage compliance by affirming them, such as by saying, “I have faith in your ability to follow through with these orders right now.” 

  5. Use trusted information sources.  With so much information available, it can be difficult to know what is accurate.  Stick to trusted sources of information such as the Center for Disease Control (CDC), the World Health Organization (WHO) and our local Department of Public Health for the County of Santa Barbara.  These are the places where you will be able to obtain accurate and timely information about the coronavirus and up-to-date health orders.

  6. Personalize situations for your kids.  If you ask your child if they know of anyone that has the coronavirus, the answer will likely be no, so this disease can seem abstract to kids.  Gently remind your children that the coronavirus is dangerous to the elderly, and that what we all do now can have a big impact down the road.  If we all follow safety precautions now, we can help prevent future lockdowns.

  7. Help connect their independence with being safe.  Children and teens want and deserve their freedom back (don’t we all!) If we can help them understand that adhering to safety precautions, like wearing your face mask (correctly) and using hand sanitizer, will enable them to venture out, kids are more likely to follow these safety protocols. 

As parents, we set the tone in the household. It is important that we try to stay positive and communicate consistent messages to our kids such as adhering to safety protocols now, and that a brighter future lies ahead. Remember to keep lines of communication open between you and your kids; reassure them, keep them informed and connected.

For more information about how you can prevent getting and spreading the coronavirus and what steps the Santa Barbara County Public Health Department is taking to protect our communities, please visit:

Suzanne Grimmesey, MFT, is the County of Santa Barbara’s Chief Quality Care and Strategy Officer and is responsible for leadership of Quality Care and Strategy Management within the Department of Behavioral Wellness.

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SandyS Jul 27, 2020 02:47 PM
How to Help Your Kids Navigate the Impacts of COVID-19

I don't understand the "pods". That doesn't make you any safer really. Just today a friend told us they now have to get tested b/c they may have been exposed at their work. It can happen in a split second and you may not know so how is a "pod" any safer?

Crystalandmaui Jul 27, 2020 08:52 AM
How to Help Your Kids Navigate the Impacts of COVID-19

Well people do you want to be here for kids next year, or how ever long it takes for this to be under control? Or just for the moment? Cause I’m looking to the future.
I know it’s hard for some to believe this is deadly, as I read on another post the other day, so are all those people who have died from it, fake? I know many people who have underlining diseases and they can live a long time. But if they get this virus they won’t, so it’s the virus that killed them, not their underlining diseases.
Because of being lied to in the beginning, of this virus , a lot of you won’t take it serious, till today.
First lie this is a China problem, it won’t get here. Second lie if it does it will be so small it will come and go before you know it.
Third lie wearing mask won’t help you.
Forth lie it’s only a flu or bad cold symptoms.
Ok, enough already, we are still lied to about this whole virus, this is GERM WARFARE, AND WE HAVE BEEN HIT HARD. I FEEL THE NAME CORONAVIRUS IS JUST A NAME THEY GAVE IT, TO MAKE PEOPLE THINK ITS PART OF THE FLU VIRUSES. and that’s why so many people, still feel this is a lot of exaggerated fear tactics.
Why did China do this? What was said? Was it the tax tarrifs? Is it to be in control over the US, the world. You know they have the live virus and most likely the vaccine for it. In the end we’re all going to die from this virus, this will control our future. How can you get rid of it if you can get reinfected only months later? How is it safe for kids to go to school? I don’t want to play Russian rulet with my kids life, so the president says if kids get they’ll recover quickly, so what happened to , we don’t want young people to get it and bring it home to their parents or grandparents taking care of them, so if a child gets it and brings it home, and now the parents get it, who will take care of kids then? And what damage does it do inside of us, whether young or old.
There still needs to be better care with wearing a mask, keeping your distance and if you wear gloves, it’s once done and throw away, not wear those gloves all day, or at least use a hand sanitizer afterwards. All the time. The grocery stores need to better in cleaning off the belts and key pads and their hands and spraying down those carts, and the restaurants need to do the same, sanitize your hands after every new customer and wipe off the table and chairs with sanitizer.

Crystalandmaui Jul 27, 2020 07:31 PM
How to Help Your Kids Navigate the Impacts of COVID-19

Hi, I meant in the future it seems inevitable that each and everyone of us will eventually get it and as we get older our immune system gets weaker, and so will our organs each time we get this till it will eventually kill us. Slowly but surely.
Well that’s how I feel.

SandyS Jul 27, 2020 02:50 PM
How to Help Your Kids Navigate the Impacts of COVID-19

CRYSTALANDMAUI calm down we are not all going to die from the virus. That would have happened already. I don't necessarily disagree with you that this is biowarfare - especially considering now there are mysterious seed packets being mailed to ppl here and in the UK from China - purposefully mislabeled to avoid detection at customs [and who knows what bugs/pests/diseases those seeds carry] so it appears they now may be trying to damage our crops/food supply but seriously we will find medicines for this, they already know much more about it than they did a few months back hence the deaths are decreasing at least for now. Just stay safe is all and be smart. I don't want to get this either, especially if it is bio warfare. Who knows what the heck an optimized virus can do.

oceandrew Jul 27, 2020 03:40 PM
How to Help Your Kids Navigate the Impacts of COVID-19

Townie, if you're right that means that with 140,000 deaths reported there must have been 70,000,000 positive cases in the US, not the 4,000,000 the Prez is either touting or ducking. Either your numbers are off or the Prez is lying (both distinct possibilities since he lies more often than not - 80% of the time).

RHS Jul 26, 2020 04:08 PM
How to Help Your Kids Navigate the Impacts of COVID-19

1:32 pm. I want my children to grow up believing that there are rational people who listen to and act on science and facts. I do not want my children to believe in magic and the fantasy that somehow the real ills of the world will not affect them because their family is special and not subject to the harm that others experience. How do you feel about your kids using seat belts, avoiding second hand smoke, consuming fats, sugars and salts at fast food joints, getting vaccinated, etc.? How do you explain to them that others are trying to be socially considerate but they don't have that obligation? I assume you don't bother with this stuff.

420722 Jul 26, 2020 01:32 PM
How to Help Your Kids Navigate the Impacts of COVID-19

In order to combat the hopelessness, anxiety and depression I let my kids hit the beach, have play dates and go to camps. Most of you disagree with me and that’s cool I am not looking for your approval just voicing my opinion. I want my kids to grow up unafraid of their television and government.

a-1595901578 Jul 27, 2020 06:59 PM
How to Help Your Kids Navigate the Impacts of COVID-19

Seriously, giving into any and all kids' whims during a pandemic is maybe not the best route to go. Not only teaching them they can always do whatever they want, no matter the consequences, it's also not very safe or responsible.

letmego Jul 27, 2020 09:58 AM
How to Help Your Kids Navigate the Impacts of COVID-19

The play dates are a problem unless you have a pod. Several of my friends are allowing play dates for their kids, but in each case - they seem to have selected one particular family to interact with.

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