Survival Tips for Parents: Coronavirus Facts Vs. Fears

By Susan Shackelford, Ph.D.

Parenting in the time of COVID-19 may present unique challenges. Parents may not recognize the feelings their children are experiencing and may be surprised by their own words and actions in response.


Pandemic-related isolation and uncertainty may cause feelings of fear, anger and depression. These feelings may lead to confusion and greater conflict with children and others. Some people might feel numb or detached from things around them, while others are surprised by the feelings of grief they experience. All of these varied feelings are normal reactions to the events we have experienced in the last few months. Schools are closed, parents may be working from home, and financial stress and job loss is very real. While there is more uncertainty in our lives than ever before, there are small things we can do to lessen the psychological toll.


Here are some things you can do to help you and your child:

First, it’s important to remember that everyone reacts differently. Go easy on yourself and your kids and remember we are all unique. We know that getting enough sleep, eating well, exercising regularly and establishing a routine increases our ability to manage stress. However, many of us are experiencing isolation, fear and vulnerability beyond our ability to cope.

Here are some things you can do to help you and your child:


• Learn and communicate facts. Fear is contagious, so choose an objective, reliable source of COVID-19 information, such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or the World Health Organization. Keep in mind that more than 80% of people who get COVID-19 will have no symptoms or only mild symptoms and will never have to be hospitalized. Remember that 97% of people who get COVID-19 will recover. These are facts.


• Take an emotional break. Take a minute to let any troubling feelings pass. Imagine the way a cloud passes above your head on an otherwise sunny day. Recognize the difference between a fact, a thought and a feeling. A fact is something you observe or know to be true (97% of those who get COVID-19 will recover). A thought is just that (“I think I will catch this and die.”). A feeling is the emotional response to a thought. Everyone reacts differently. Be gentle to yourself and remember we are all human. Stick to facts.


• Get into a routine. Get up, get dressed and set expectations for the day. Create a schedule for work, school and fun. Don’t forget to exercise and pull out old family games. Do safe activities you usually enjoy. Continued safe social contact is essential.


• Limit TV and social media. Both may increase anxiety, undermine mental health and increase our perception of risk. Children may be confused by what they hear. Be aware there may be more rumors than fact during a crisis due to fear contagion.

• Talk with your child about COVID-19. Answer questions in a way your child can understand. Reassure them and let them know the way they feel is normal. Share how you cope. Children learn by watching us.


• Know when to get help. If you notice an increase in your use of alcohol or other drugs or if you experience extreme moodiness or physical symptoms that linger such as headaches, insomnia, disturbing thoughts or images, this may be a sign to seek professional help.


• Do things to help others. This will make you feel better, less isolated and might promote helpful behaviors in others. Examples could include surprising others with gift cards, dropping meals from local restaurants off to a neighbor, donating groceries to food pantries or making masks for others. 


Remember, it is normal to feel acute stress during something this significant. However, if troubling feelings persist or worsen, please seek help. Many mental health professionals offer therapy and medication management via telehealth. As we adjust to our new reality during the coronavirus pandemic, be kind to others, keep up social distancing and listen to facts. 


NOTE: Dr. Shackelford’s clinic provides video and telephone therapy and medication management for those having a difficult time adjusting and for those experiencing any mental health concerns.



Susan Shackelford, Ph.D., a native of San Antonio, Texas, attended Trinity University and Texas A&M University. She completed her Clinical Psychology Residency at Tulane University School of Medicine, Department of Psychiatry and Neurology. She has extensive training in child and adult populations. Dr. Shackelford lives with her husband and three sons in Fayetteville. She loves adventures and being outdoors. She enjoys hiking with her dogs, water skiing, boating and playing sports with her boys.


For more information about Dr. Shackelford and her clinic, Psychology & Counseling Associates, P.A., in Fayetteville, visit (adult website) or (childrens website) or call (479) 443-5575.



CitiScapes Magazine is Northwest Arkansas' longest running and most widely circulated monthly city/regional lifestyle magazine. 

© CitiScapes 2020


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Fayetteville, AR 72702


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