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News about Coronavirus, or COVID-19, is every where right now. News channels lead with it on the morning and evening reports, you see it on all the social media platforms, and it’s even gone viral on Tik-Tok. Our kids are for sure hearing about it. If the news is on while they are in the room, chances are they are paying attention and if not then other kids and adults at school are talking about. It has been the hot topic in my office this week from kids and adults.

So how do you talk to your children about Coronavirus? It’s important to ask our kids what they have heard, even if they haven’t brought it up yet. Clear up any rumors they may have heard from others and stick with facts. Check your own emotions towards it as well. Are you feeling anxious and panicky? Your kids are going to pick up on that. Kids emotions often mirror the emotions of the adults around them. It is okay to be informed about what is going on, but we don’t want to become so anxious that we aren’t functioning in a healthy manner. This may be a really great time for you to check in with your mental health professional on ways to manage your own anxiety surrounding the news.

Whenever there is something going on that is out of our control, like a virus such as Coronavirus, it’s important to focus on what you CAN control. This goes for children and adults. In our house we are focusing on the things we can control to keep ourselves as healthy as possible. My own 6.5 year old ask me about the virus this morning and I pulled out the tips that I've received from medical professionals to help ease his worry.

1. Hand-washing – 20 seconds of it with soap and water

2. Not touching faces – our own faces or other people’s faces

3. Keep your hands out of your mouth

4. Cover sneezes and coughs

5. Don’t share food or drinks with others at the lunch table or anywhere else

Kids just want to know how they are going to stay safe and that their world is going to be okay. They want reassurance and to know that things are under control. Keeping the focus on facts, what they can control, and what the steps are if someone is sick (go to the doctor, rest, etc.) will help ease the worry and anxiety that may come up.

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Did you know that if you get on Amazon and type in "Parenting Books" you'll get a list of over 50,000 results? WOAH. That's pretty overwhelming! And then when you begin to look through the list you might start thinking to yourself "ummmm how do I know what to buy?!?". I recommend books all the time to clients and am careful to select items that will have an impact and that I know the parent will have time to read (or at least look through).

Here's how I decide if a resource is worth investing in:

1. I read the reviews. If other professionals are recommending the book along with parents then I check it out further.

2. Does the book offer solutions that are positive in nature. Meaning the book isn't trying to "fix" your "bad" kid. The words "fix", "bad", "controlling", "punishment" are red flags to me that the book might look at the child being a problem rather than the child struggling with a problem. I look for books that have words such as "empathy", "emotional intelligence or EQ", "discipline", "boundaries", "attachment", "brain development". Those words indicate to me that the book is probably going to touch on some ideas that will help support a child in their development and give a parent a different way to look at the issue.

3. I look for books that aren't super long or clinical sounding because who has time to read a book with 500 pages or words/terms you have to Google?

4. Finally I take a look inside the book. I love that Amazon offers the feature where you can usually read the forward and table of contents of the book. This allows me access to see what is covered, how the authors write, and it is as advertised.

Interested in learning what books I recommend? Sign up for my freebie here and you'll get the list delivered directly to you inbox.

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I get this question from parents quite often. “How is playing with toys going to teach my child how to cope with anxiety/ADHD/depression/divorce/bullies?”

Play therapy is much more than playing with toys. It is the most developmentally appropriate way to approach counseling for children ages 3 to 12. A child’s primary language is play and toys are their words. Sit back some time and watch your child play. What do you see? If they are little it may look like nurturing a baby doll, serving you food, playing in a doll house with a family. You may hear them saying things you’ve said before or acting out a situation that may have happened the other day. For older children it may look like them building with Legos and you overhear negative or positive self-talk, creating art to reflect how they view the world, or playing board games and creating their own rules. These are all examples of children using play to explore the world and themselves.

If I were to sit a child down on a couch across from me and talk to them for 50 minutes about what their problems are, how to “fix” those problems, and what they need to change, a couple of things would happen. The first is they would view me just like they view every other adult in their life who is frustrated by their behavior and wanting them to change. Second, they would shut down and tune me out. Now if I take that same child and bring out Uno, fuse beads, sand, Legos, army men, dress up clothes… suddenly, they allow me into their world. They are free to dress up, dig in the sand, make a mess (within reason) without being told to be different. They talk to me, not in the traditional sense, but in a language I have been trained in. My training as a play therapist has taught me how to validate their experience and watch for themes in their play which help me understand what is going on in their world. In play therapy children can develop self-confidence, learn how to name and express feelings, build frustration tolerance, make sense of situations that have confused them, and feel safe all by playing with toys. Pretty cool isn’t it?

Have additional questions about play therapy or are wondering about where to find a Registered Play Therapist near you? The Association for Play Therapy is a wonderful resource and their site can be visited here.

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