Mental Health Guidance for IBD Patients
What are typical emotional responses to COVID-19?
Both children and adults may be experiencing more anxiety during this pandemic. Anxiety and stress may be expressed differently at different ages. Younger children may have less ability to express their fears verbally, so behavior changes may be observed, including more crying, tantrums, fears of being alone, and needing more attention. Older children and teens may seem more irritable or may keep to themselves more.
What can I do to help my child cope with COVID-19?
- Find out what your child knows about COVID-19 and what questions they have. Asking your child these questions both informs you about their concerns and also sends the message that it is ok to talk about the pandemic and that it isn’t so frightening that even grownups don’t want to talk about it. Answer their questions in developmentally appropriate language, but also do not give more information than they are asking for. Be honest with your responses but also send messages that you are doing all you can to keep them safe.
- Allow your child talk about their fears and acknowledge those fears, listen and then reflect their concerns back to them. For example, “I can tell you’re really worried about what could happen”.
- Help your child feel more in control by reminding them about things they can do to protect themselves, reminding them they can wash their hands, wear a face covering when leaving the house, and social distancing.
- Encouraging your child to help others can give them a greater feeling of mastery. For example, writing a card or letter to healthcare workers or first responders or taking an older person in the neighborhood food or other needed supplies helps your child feel they can make an impact in a positive way.
- Establish a routine or schedule that is similar to your child’s typical school day. Display the schedule where your child can refer to it; for younger children, create a visual schedule with pictures. Increased predictability can help your child experience a sense of control that can help reduce anxiety. Build in activities during the day or week to look forward to.
- Limit exposure to news coverage.
- Remind your child that things won’t always be this way.
My child is worried about going to the hospital for an infusion. What can I do to help?
First, ask your child to tell you more about what his or her concerns are. It is likely that one of the concerns is about being exposed to the virus. Reassure your child about precautions you will be taking to keep your child safe, such as washing hands and wearing a mask, and that all of your child’s health care providers will be using the same safety precautions. Your child may also be worried about having to go to a new location for his or her infusion. If you usually go to the Chapel Hill location, you may be going to the Raleigh location for the infusion. Your child may be concerned about having new health care providers. Reassure your child that the nurses in the Raleigh location also work closely with your team of pediatric gastroenterologists.