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Parenting in a Pandemic: 9 Tips to Help Kids Cope

As parents, the coronavirus has thrown us, and our kiddos, a complete curveball—bringing up all sorts of emotions and wreaking havoc on our mental health. Luckily, there are ways to help little ones cope while keeping your own cool, too. Here are some tips to help guide families through these uncertain times.

Keep calm. Children don't always have the words to express what’s going on with them. When they get upset, it’s tempting to get distraught as well, but what they need most is for us to help calm them down. Talk about what they might be thinking and feeling, then help them label the emotion. Offer validation and empathy and teach them what to do with their emotions. Often when it's named and heard, it will diminish rather quickly.—Nancy Ryan, MA, LMFT, CEO,

Dream big. Make a bucket list as a family of the places you want to visit, things you want to do, and foods you want to eat when the world opens back up. Get specific about details and put it down on paper. Break out the crayons, art supplies, or whatever you have on hand. Keep your list on the fridge to keep the dream alive.—Lauren Simas, MA, LMFT,

Remember that this too shall pass. Adjust your expectations of yourself and your children in terms of productivity, patience, and poise. This pandemic is wreaking havoc on our kids’ sense of their place in the world—remind them that this is temporary.—Janette Robinson, MA, LMFT,

Movement matters. It’s hard enough for adults to sit on Zoom for hours at a time, let alone children who are used to activity and in-person classroom interaction. Encourage your kiddos to move and stretch between online activities, so they can sit again and focus. If you can make something a game, they’re much more willing to comply. For example, how many times can they run up and down the stairs in one minute?—Nancy Ryan, MA, LMFT, CEO,

Get outside and play


Make new memories. Kids have missed out on so many crucial milestones over the past year, but just because crowd sizes are capped doesn't mean you can’t celebrate big. Find creative ways to make things special, like throwing a superhero birthday party just for your household.—Lauren Simas, MA, LMFT,

Keep things predictable. Set and maintain daily and weekly schedules as much as possible, focusing on rhythm when feasible instead of strict timetables (to keep stress in check).—Janette Robinson, MA, LMFT,

Take care of you. Apologize if you need to and maintain good self-care. Remember: You’re a model for your children, and they look to you on how to handle things. If you continue to take care of yourself, you’ll be a more positive parent, have energy, and be more patient with your children. It's important to have the strength to continue to set boundaries and provide structure for your family. As the airlines say, "Put your own mask on before attempting to help your children."—Nancy Ryan, MA, LMFT, CEO,

Have fun as a family. Many of the ways we normally play with our kids aren’t on the table right now, but they haven’t stopped having fun. This is the time to get into that Roblox game or other activity that your little one won't stop talking about. Follow their lead and see where it goes.—Lauren Simas, MA, LMFT,

Stay social. Connecting with others and having fun are highly effective ways of decreasing sadness and anxiety, which for many kids (and adults) can be amplified during this extended period of isolation. Carve out time for outdoor play, family board games, regular calls with relatives and friends, socially distanced playdates, and even online video games to keep little ones linked to family members and the larger world.—Janette Robinson, MA, LMFT, 


Nancy Ryan, MA, LMFT, is the owner and director of Relationship Therapy Center (locations in Roseville and Fair Oaks). She believes that “therapy, with the right therapist, can be empowering, transformative, and life-changing.”

Nancy Ryan, MA, LMFT


Lauren Simas, MA, LMFT, works with children, adolescents, and adults to address mental health concerns and strengthen their relationships. Based in Folsom with an active telehealth practice, she wants to help “get your family back on track and find a bit of peace when everything feels out of control.”

Lauren Simas, MA, LMFT


Janette Robinson, MA, LMFT, is an interactive, strengths-based therapist specializing in couples therapy, parenting, and women’s issues. At her private practice in Placerville, she offers a “Trail Talk” service, which partners the benefits of exercise and movement with the benefits of talk therapy.

Janette Robinson, MA, LMFT


by Megan Wiskus

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