Coping with Coronavirus Concerns: Advice from a Psychologist

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- School closings, travel restrictions, and working from home -

The Coronavirus outbreak is causing disruptions to daily life for some.

A local psychologist says there are ways to keep the disruptions and changes from becoming overwhelming.

Most of us have been through challenges like snowstorms, floods, and, of course, the tragedy and fear of 9/11.

But Dr. Elizabeth Gosch, a clinical psychologist with the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine, says the Coronavirus outbreak has been hard to mentally digest.

That's because it's changing by the hour, with a host of unprecedented effects, such as the shutdowns in pro sports.

"That loss of control, that sense of uncertainty is very difficult for people to manage," says Elizabeth Gosch, Ph.D.

Dr. Gosch says children are aware of the outbreak and can easily sense adults' distress, so parents should explain the outbreak in a reassuring way.

"You want to be calm and honest but with age-appropriate information as they need to know," she explains.

It may help to explain that very few children are getting sick from COVID-19.

Be ready for their questions, but if you don't have the answers, don't guess.

Get the information from a trustworthy source, like UNICEF, which has a child-friendly web page on COVID-19.

And show them ways they can protect themselves and their friends - with hand-washing, covering coughs and sneezes with their elbows, and cleaning.

And as for school and work closures?

"We're staying home not because we're so afraid you're going to get sick, but actually because we want to help keep other people safe," she explains.

All those give kids more sense of control.

Dr. Gosch says when schools are closed, kids still need scheduled, planned activities.

"It's not a good idea to just let them sit or be in front of a screen all day, or to be left to their own devices, no matter their age, even if they're older," she says.

Dr. Gosch says to most children, these closures will seem like snow days. But it's important to keep their minds busy, so they won't lose any learning momentum.
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