COVID-19 and children: What you should know

Mister Rogers once said, “Anything that’s human is mentionable, and anything that is mentionable can be more manageable. When we can talk about our feelings, they become less overwhelming, less upsetting and less scary.” 

Below we’ll be adding some expert advice from some highly respected physicians. They realize it can be hard to know what to do and what to say during difficult times, so they have written down their thoughts and continue to make themselves available to you and your family. We are blessed to have such dedicated doctors wanting only the best for those they care about and that’s their patients and their community!

Being a parent isn’t an easy job on a normal day, but we know many of you have been facing unprecedented challenges over the last few weeks. We want to remind you that our physicians, nurses and staff are still here for you and prepared to continue caring for your children through the current Covid-19 pandemic. We are taking extra precautions at all of our clinics to protect our youngest and most vulnerable patients who may still need to be seen in-person. We are also available via telemedicine visits for many other concerns, so if you have questions or would like to schedule a visit, please call our clinics and we will walk you through the best method for evaluation.  On behalf of our entire Children’s Hospital of San Antonio Primary Care team, thank you for everything you are doing for your families and for our community!-

smith_courtneyCourtney Smith, MD, FAAP

Children’s Hospital of San Antonio Primary Care Dominion Crossing Clinic



No secret that staying active is good for your health. Dr. Renee Henigan offers a few fun suggestions things you might not have thought of but are easy and inexpensive ways to pass the time! Check out Activities to get kids off the couch!

Renee Henigan, MD, FAAP


Children’s Hospital of San Antonio Primary Care-Stone Oak



Out of School and Out of Control: How to Approach Behavior Issues in Kids When You Can’t Leave the House” – Dr. Smith (Children’s Hospital Primary Care – Dominion Crossing)

If you are noticing more tantrums from your toddlers, more attitude from your teens, or rising frustration within your family as a whole, you are not alone. Because of stay-home guidelines, many parents and children have been forced into a “new normal,” now doing school and work from home or shifting into new roles within the family. Add a grumpy, defiant, or exhausted child to the mix and it’s easy to feel like you are drowning.

Upset mother having problem with noisy naughty daughter

First, let’s start with some behavior basics. While at times it may seem like your child is pushing your buttons just to test you, most children are not being intentionally disobedient. We know that behavior in kids is an outward manifestation of what is going on within that child. Think of behavior as the tip of the iceberg, or the part you can see above the water. However, the bulk of the iceberg lies below the water and keeps the ice afloat. That part is made up of things like anxiety, fear, sleep deprivation, and other factors that ultimately shape the behavior. Many of those underlying factors are hard for children to identify or talk about, but looking at the cause of behavior change is key to redirecting and reshaping that behavior.

So how do we address the causes of unwanted behavior? Anxiety and fear are important drivers of behavior. Toddlers and younger children are often very dependent on a predictable schedule. There aren’t many things under their control, so knowing “what comes next” is important. Creating a predictable routine can often help decrease anxiety about the unknown and reduce tantrums. For older children and teens, routine is also important, but watching the Covid-19 pandemic unfold is enough to create high levels of anxiety. Talk to your kids! Ask them what they think about the events going on and what they understand about them. You may be able to correct misinformation and reassure them at the same time. Let kids know it’s OK to be frustrated or worried and show them outlets to express those emotions rather than ignoring those feelings.

Healthy meals and exercise are important for growing brains as well. It’s hard for kids (and adults) to keep their cool when they are hungry or just need to move!  While eating out or going to the playground may not be an option right now, there are a lot of activities you can do as a family to work those muscles and prevent hunger from driving that difficult behavior. Sleep is also important, and just because kids may not be waking up as early for school, staying up all night watching movies or playing games can have major consequences when it’s time to do homework or school assignments the next day. Daily schedules should include meals, wake up time and bedtime as well.

Senior women doing a video call using smartphone

Lastly, help kids connect with one another and family members who they may not be able to see in person right now. Kids can feel isolated just like us, especially when they are used to being at school and extracurricular activities. Create virtual meetings among family members, share a meal together via Facetime, or involve friends or family members for “virtual” story time. Write letters or send words of encouragement to others and show your kids the importance of thinking about others during times of crisis.

Smiling man embracing son in bedroom at home

So next time you find yourself ready to pull your hair out because of your child’s behavior, take a moment to think about the causes behind that behavior. And if you need some help (which we all do sometimes), reach out to your pediatrician! We are here for you as well, and many of us are navigating those toddler tantrums and teen angst right alongside you.