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Coronavirus uncertainty: Expert advice for Northeast Ohio families

Posted at 10:12 PM, Mar 23, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-07 09:02:59-04

CLEVELAND — Local psychologists report they are receiving a growing number of request from parents seeking assistance with coronavirus concerns and stress growing in themselves and their children.

Mark Lovinger, Ph.D., psychologist with DELR LLC. in Beachwood told News 5 some families find themselves in uncharted waters with children not in school and a large number of parents working home.

Lovenger said it's crucial parents establish structure and routines at the home as soon as possible during the ongoing coronavirus lock down.

“We can eliminate fears for children and for ourselves by sticking to a structure, of a routine, and with creativity,” Lovinger said.

“If we can keep our anxiety in check, children will take that cue and they will be calmer.”

“It’s an opportunity to learn important life lessons that you can’t learn in school.”

“This is a time for compassion and flexibility, and to reach out to people who don’t have anyone to reach out to.”

Lovinger said it's important to create family time both inside and outside the home, as long as we stay mindful of proper social distancing.

He said parents should answer a child's coronavirus questions or concerns directly and honestly.

"Don’t jump with every news report into alarmist rumoring," Lovinger said.

"Seek out updates, but not to the degree of obsessive and constant preoccupation with the world news about the virus."

"Speak with kids about their worries. Kids can misinterpret things, they can overgeneralize, and panic is infectious and can ripple through our families and create an atmosphere of dread among our children."

"Prolonged worry and sadness can also wear down the body and the brain’s resistance to distress and even illness."

"Do not avoid conversations with kids. Ignoring conversations can cause more harm than good."

Betsie Saltzberg PsyD, a psychologist & mindfulness practitioner with A Mindful Approach in Pepper Pike, told News 5 it's essential parents manage the amount of coronavirus media coverage both they and their children are watching on a daily basis.

“As much as we use media to connect, and this is interesting, we must also reduce it in terms of consuming information, and that will cut down on stress,” Saltzberg said.

“The media consumption in terms of Instagram and Twitter and even emailing back and forth and reading emails.”

Saltzberg said parents should embrace a creative approach to keep their children occupied and distracted from daily coronavirus developments here in Ohio and around the world.

She said parents should not hesitate to reach out for help if they're having trouble coping or maintaining their patience during these uncertain times.

"When it comes to keep your children occupied, I say keep it simple, do you have board games around the house," Saltzberg said.

"Think about the things you as a parent did when you were younger.”

You can find a list of frequently asked coronavirus family stress questions posted on this web page.