The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted families everywhere, some more drastically than others. For many families the pandemic might mean an unplanned change in income, leading to financial hardships you weren’t prepared for. The ripple effects of COVID 19 are far reaching, from parenting relationships, to raised anxiety in you and your children, and the concerns of the financial impact. On top of all that, finding a new normal as schools and daycares struggle to reopen will be a challenge for everyone.
As municipalities work to safely reopen communities and the economy, rest assured there are resources and information available that can help. First, consider some of this advice from a child and adolescent psychiatrist who answered questions parents may have during this time.
If COVID-19 forced a family into financial hardship, what is an effective way to explain this to kids?
If kids have questions about COVID-19 or about why things in the family might be different because of financial difficulties, answer them honestly but reassuringly, using words and concepts they can understand.
In reassuring our children, it is important that we don’t make unrealistic promises. It may be helpful to let children know that other families have been affected financially and that many people are trying to help.
Should parents avoid telling their children some things during this time?
It is important that we remember that kids learn from watching their parents, teachers, etc. They will be interested in how you respond to events and how you discuss these events with one another.
It is important to model calmness and to do your best to try to shape their environment. In this regard, try to avoid allowing children to watch too much television or media with disturbing or frightening images.
As noted in recent guidance from the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, “The repetition of such scenes can be disturbing and confusing.”
How do you explain the importance of social distancing to teens?
It’s helpful for teens to understand the rationale for social distancing and how, even if someone doesn’t appear ill, they could still transmit the virus. It is also important for them to understand that social distancing is important in stopping the spread of the virus, not just for their protection.
It is also helpful to allow them to remain in touch with friends and family members by phone, e-mail, FaceTime, Google Hangouts, Skype, etc.
In Tennessee, the Department of Human Services has launched several resources to help families who are facing financial hardships due to COVID 19.
Emergency Cash Assistance: The Tennessee Department of Human Services (TDHS) is making essential financial resources available to families that have been significantly impacted by the COVID-19 emergency.
Families First (or TANF): Families First, the state’s Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program, is a workforce development and employment program. It is temporary and has a primary focus on supporting families through employment. The Families First program helps participants reach this goal by providing temporary cash assistance, transportation, child care assistance, educational supports, job training, employment activities, and other support services.
Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP): The SNAP Program provides nutritional assistance benefits to children and families, the elderly, the disabled, unemployed and working families. SNAP helps supplement monthly food budgets of families with low-income to buy the food they need to maintain good health and allow them to direct more of their available income toward essential living expenses. Some interview requirements have been temporarily waived for individuals receiving Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) benefits. Tennesseans are now able to use SNAP benefits to buy food online as well! SNAP recipients will be able to use their benefits to buy food on Amazon beginning June 1, 2020. Walmart will accept SNAP benefits at statewide locations beginning June 2. The USDA has additionally announced plans to expand online purchasing to more retailers in the future.
COVID-19 Essential Employee Child Care Payment Assistance Program: This program is designed to help support essential workers so they can stay on the job during the COVID-19 emergency. Through payment assistance and a network of temporary care locations, parents who work as essential employees can access child care at no cost, during the COVID-19 pandemic state of emergency until mid-August.
Smart Steps Child Care Assistance Program: This child care payment assistance program is available to income-eligible working parents and parents pursuing post-secondary educational goals that have children ages six (6) weeks to kindergarten.