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As a new strain of coronavirus (COVID-19) swept through the world in 2020, preparedness plans, masking policies and more public policy changed just as quickly. WVXU has covered the pandemic's impact on the Tri-State from the very beginning, when on March 3, 2020, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine barred spectators from attending the Arnold Sports Festival in Columbus over concerns about the virus, even though Ohio had yet to confirm a single case of COVID-19.

Tips For Helping Kids Cope During The Pandemic

Jason Whitman
Brian Michaud shoots baskets for exercise at Veteran’s Memorial Park on Harrison Avenue in the wake of the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic, Thursday, March 24, 2020, in Cincinnati.";

The coronavirus outbreak and the statewide stay-at-home orders may make some people feel isolated, depressed and bored. That's especially true for children. 

Without question, the COVID-19 pandemic and the response to it have turned our day-to-day lives upside down.

For children, that means online or distance learning away from their teachers and friends at school. And while FaceTime and video chats allow kids to connect, it's not the same as human contact.

Know The Signs Of Stress  

Dr. Lori Crosby, with Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center, said that leads to stress, and it's harder to identify in kids. She spoke at a recent city of Cincinnati press briefing on COVID-19.

"You might notice that there are changes in their sleeping habits, their eating habits," Crosby said. "They might develop fears and these fears might be unrelated to COVID-19. All of a sudden, a child is afraid of something that they hadn't been afraid of before. These children may show those signs and they may be the same in teens, but teens sometimes show other signs like irritability, they might get moody, they might have trouble concentrating or they might be more isolated and stay in their room, wanting to be by themselves."

What Caregivers Can Do

So, if you notice these signs of stress, what can you do about them? Dr. Bob Shapiro, also with Children's Hospital, said the first thing, is for parents or caregivers to be calm.

"If you're anxious, if you have a lot of stress, your kids are going to pick up on that," Shapiro said. "So, try to stay calm yourself."

Shapiro also said you need to take the time and be available to talk to your kids.

"Get off your phone, turn off the television. Your kids need you and so find time to calmly check in with them," Shapiro said. "Ask them what are they worried about? What do they know? What questions do they have? Answer their questions honestly, if you don't know the answer, tell them you don't know the answer to that. But you can tell them everything that you are doing as a family and everything that the community is doing to help keep them safe."

Shapiro suggests focusing on positive information, reinforcing kindness and don't blame others for what's happening. 

You should also limit the amount of time the TV news is on in your household.  He said we can only handle so much bad news in a day. 

Shapiro said it's a good idea keep a daily schedule, too.

"Kids know what's happening during the day, they can count on things," Shapiro said. "One of the ways that we can deal with anxiety is to have some control over the things in our lives that we can control. So, create structure and routine in your lives."

The doctors prefer the term "physical distancing" as opposed "social distancing."

Dr. Crosby said people need spacing, but they need to stay socially connected. She said families are being creative to make that happen for their kids.

"It may be reading a book on Facebook Live; it may be playing games together with phones in the middle of the games as we're going around so that people are playing virtually the board game together families," Crosby said. "It may be virtual playdates where young children are playing, but not really looking at each other, just that parallel play virtually."

If you have concerns about your child's mental health, call your pediatrician or contact Children's Hospital at 513-636-8107.

You'll also find links to a virtual calendar with education, art and physical activities on the Children's Hospital website.

Jay Hanselman brings more than 10 years experience as a news anchor and reporter to 91.7 WVXU. He came to WVXU from WNKU, where he hosted the local broadcast of All Things Considered. Hanselman has been recognized for his reporting by the Kentucky AP Broadcasters Association, the Ohio Society of Professional Journalists, and the Ohio AP Broadcasters.