Emotionally supporting your child during lockdown

Emotionally supporting your child during lockdown

Lockdown is a time of turmoil for all of us. Our lives as we know them have been turned on their heads. It is overwhelming for us as adults not being able to interact with family and friends, not go outside or engage in our usual routines. This can be even more overwhelming for our children. Not seeing friends, going to school, seeing grannies and grandpas, or taking part in activities they love such as sport can be confusing and frustrating for children. Not to mention hearing all the news and constant chatter about the pandemic. Worries about the safety of their families, friends and their own lives is a concern that is prevalent among many children in uncertain times such as these.

It is important that while we are aware that while we as adults have many concerns during the chaos of lockdown, we need to keep in mind that our children are being affected emotionally as well. Our job as adults is to provide a safe place, where they can express their feelings and answer any questions they may have, in order to foster a sense of calm in our children’s topsy turvy worlds. Parents can help their children in small and practical ways to ease the emotional strain during this time.

  • Be aware that everyone responds in different ways to difficult times, such as these. Some children may not be affected at all, others may be obviously upset or distressed, others may avoid feelings. We need to respect each person’s feelings and ways of responding to events.


  • Encourage your child to openly speak about their feelings and ask questions. Children do need more consistent reminders than we realise. Constantly remind your child that you are there for them to talk to about anything, or to ask any questions. Don’t assume that your child has the same worries that you do. Pick good times to talk, look for natural openings to have a chat about certain topics.

  • Communicate with your child in age appropriate ways. Remember that children appreciate the truth, and they know when adults aren’t telling them the truth, or all the information. Providing them with a sense of understanding (in an age appropriate way) can be comforting. They do not need to be exposed to great detail, or know the current death toll for example, but they can be given age appropriate and child friendly information.


  • Help your child to name and identify their emotions. If they get angry and stamp their foot on the ground you could say “I can see you are feeling angry because you stomped your foot”. Acknowledge these feelings and validate them. Let them know that it is okay for them to be feeling the way they are feeling. Teach them to use their words, and by having a label for the emotion it feels more concrete and manageable. It gives the feeling that this is a common occurrence with other people, and therefore takes away the scary element, as they are not the only ones who feel this way.

  • Normalise emotions. Do not be afraid to share your own emotions and experiences. Being human and expressing your own thoughts helps your child to relate to you easier, and it instils the idea even further that their emotions are not unique to them and are normal. Show or chat to your child about how you cope with big feelings like sadness, boredom, nerves, etc. Demonstrate through actions and teachable moments during the course of everyday life how you deal and manage big emotions.


  • Be careful of social media exposure, or the family constantly talking about the pandemic. Children pick up on your emotions and tend to mirror these. Be aware that although the images and information may be acceptable for you, it could be upsetting for a younger child.

  • Keep up routines at home. Consistency and normalcy helps your child to feel secure and that although there is so much uncertainty in the world today, that home can still be a normal safe space. Continue to have set meal times, bath times, and bedtimes, for example.


  • Talk about the future, set goals and make plans. Discuss where you could go on your next holiday, start planning a “family day” or creating a new family ritual. Focusing outside of the lockdown, and developing a positive sense of purpose can be therapeutic for the whole family.

  • Encourage physical activity, as this reduces tension and increases the release of endorphins. When we start moving we start to feel more energetic and upbeat. Go for a family walk or cycle each morning; do a pilates, yoga or gym session as a family in the garden once a week; or create an obstacle course with household items in the backyard.

  • Help children enjoy themselves. Encourage them to do activities and play with others. The distraction is extremely helpful, and gives them a sense of normalcy. Encourage the children to play board games together, or build a fort under the dining room table.

  • Develop alternative ways of communicating with loved ones we cannot see in person. Not seeing grandparents, friends and other family members can be confusing and upsetting for a child. Try and bridge this gap with creative ideas such as:
    • Virtual “playdates” by connecting your child online with a friend for a virtual chat on a platform, such as Zoom, Skype, or a video call.
    • Get your child to write and send an email to their teacher, a friend in class, or a family member. They will enjoy getting an email message in return! An adult can also write an email message from a child.
    • Phone a friend or family member. Encourage your child to connect with one friend or family member on the phone each week. This exercise is beneficial for everyone!

  • Take part in activities as a family that help you to de-stress together: Do some simple breathing exercises, for example. Breathing becomes shallow when anxiety sets in; deep belly breaths can help children calm down. You can hold a feather or a wad of cotton in front of your child’s mouth and ask him to blow at it, exhaling slowly. Or you can say, “Let’s breathe in slowly while I count to three, then breathe out while I count to three.” Place a stuffed animal or pillow on your child’s tummy as he lies down and ask him to breathe in and out slowly and watch the toy or pillow rise and fall.


  • Don’t worry about knowing exactly the right thing to say — after all, there is no answer that will make everything okay. Most of the time all your child needs is you, not the perfect words or solution, but a parent that is present and loves them!

Being in lockdown is tough for all. Our children are feeling it too. A parent who is sensitive to this, and is simply present for their child makes the world of difference! “We can’t control everything that happens, but we can change our experience of those things” – anonymous.


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