How to talk with children about COVID-19, grief, anxiety, and more: mental health resources for parents

April 2, 2020 | Abby Liu

As we continue to experience the ongoing COVID-19 crisis, experts agree: we must tend to our own mental health and the mental health of our families. Many of us have heard that we should keep to a routine, connect to others, limit the news, go outside, and put pants on everyday. (I read in one article that we should put on “REAL” pants, not sweat pants. I disagree.)

But what if you have more questions about the emotions that are rising to the surface right now? What if you don’t know what to say to your children when they ask questions? We’ve put together a list of articles and resources that have more information about dealing with the effects of COVID-19 including talking with your children about the crisis, grief, anxiety, parenting, and social and spiritual health. 

I asked Dana Baker, one of our learning specialists, if she had any thoughts to share. Here’s her response. I related to what she has to say. Maybe you will, too.

As I think about the adjustment to our current reality, here’s what I keep telling parents and teachers: our capacity for frustration is really limited right now. Our brains are constantly alerting us that there is danger in the world and prompting our bodies to activate a protective response, heightening stress. We’re out of our normal routines, so our brains are constantly coping with “different.”  We’re processing the fact that so much of the day is different than the patterns we’re used to. This is a huge cognitive learning curve. It’s uncomfortable, being out of routine! 

Essentially, our energy is being spent trying not to panic and trying to process this discomfort, and we have little space for anything else. So your child or your spouse, throws a mild fit over an app not working or a favorite toy breaking. We’re tired, processing all of this new and trying not to live in worry. 

So how can we respond? We need to be kind and gentle with each other and with ourselves, giving each other emotional space as much as we’re giving physical space. We need to extend grace and generosity more than ever before. 

I’m encouraged by the truth that our brains are good at adjusting, that over time this will feel like routine. It won’t feel so taxing. (I hope, I hope). And we get to retrain our brains to be calm in the midst of constant temptation to worry. Deep and careful and counted breaths. 

Stop Breathe Think Kids has guided meditations that lead kids (and adults) through big and scary feelings, reminding us to breathe, reminding us that we are still here and okay, that we will move through these feelings. 

One more thought: at Mustard Seed, we’re huge proponents of prayer. We believe that we’re all children of God, known and loved by God. The Lord hears the cries of his people. If you’d like the faculty and staff to pray for any specific requests please let us know. We invite you to email your requests to Mr. Postema: [email protected]. We commit to praying for you and look forward to the day when we can be together as a community, in the same space.

Talking with Children About COVID-19

Helping Children Cope with Coronavirus and Uncertainty (Harvard Graduate School of Education) Short blog and helpful video on how caregivers can answer children’s questions while fostering a sense of safety.

Talking With Kids About Coronavirus (Parenting Expert Susan Stiffelman)
Article and video

Kids coping with the COVID-19 pandemic (Mayo Clinic)

Helping Children Cope With Changes Resulting From COVID-19 (National Association of School Psychologists)

Countering COVID-19 (Coronavirus) Stigma and Racism: Tips for Parents and Caregivers (National Association of School Psychologists)


Grieving the Losses of Coronavirus (The New York Times)
In addition to the tragic losses of life and health and jobs, we are grieving the losses of weddings, sports and the ability to buy eggs or get a haircut.

Coronavirus Has Upended Our World. It’s OK To Grieve (NPR)
“We need to recognize that mixed in with all the feelings we’re having of anger, disappointment, perhaps rage, blame and powerlessness – is grief,” says Terri Daniel, who works with the dying and bereaved. The article talks about how to recognize the losses and honor the grief.

That Discomfort You’re Feeling Is Grief (Harvard Business Review)
An interview with grief expert David Kessler about how to manage the grief that COVID-19 brings.


Anxiety and Coping With the Coronavirus (Child Mind Institute)
Managing worry — your kids’ and your own

What to Do (and Not Do) When Children Are Anxious (Child Mind Institute)
How to respect feelings without empowering fears

Anxious Stomach Aches and Headaches (Child Mind Institute)
Physical symptoms are often the way children experience anxiety

How Mindfulness Can Help During COVID-19 (Child Mind Institute)
Tips for calming anxiety during a difficult time

4 Ways to Help Your Anxious Kid (The New York Times)
First, acknowledge ways the coronavirus has changed their lives.

Children And Anxiety: Helping Anxious Kids Target Their Fears (Susan Stiffelman)

A Brain Hack to Break the Coronavirus Anxiety Cycle (The New York Times)
Uncertainty about coronavirus spreads anxiety through social contagion. Here’s a way to minimize that.

Parenting During COVID-19

Parenting in Isolation: Staying Grounded (podcast with Susan Stiffelman)
Susan shares tips for staying grounded while honoring Coronavirus recommendations of social distancing. 

The Challenge of Feeding Kids During Coronavirus (The New York Times)
It’s OK to let children indulge in their favorite foods while riding out the crisis. Plus: resources for food-insecure families.

Keeping up kids’ mental health during coronavirus (National Geographic)
It can be a scary time for children. It’s OK—and healthy—to acknowledge that.

Spiritual and Mental Health During COVID-19

Pray as you Stay: Prayer support Series in the Ignatian Tradition. (Pray as You Go)

Spiritual Health Care: Social Distancing Without Social Isolation (Sojourners)

Protect Your Mental Health While Practicing Social Distancing (Sojourners)




Abby Liu

Former Director of Marketing and Communications

Abby Liu was the Director of Marketing and Communications from Sept. 2018-August 2021 and was an employee of Mustard Seed School for over 14 years. She’s the parent of two Mustard Seed School alumni. She's seen the impact of a Mustard Seed education from the early preschool days all the way up to eighth grade and beyond, and thoroughly enjoys sharing the Mustard Seed School story to this day.

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