While emotions are running high during the outbreak of COVID-19, many parents are wondering two things: how do we keep our families safe and how do we talk to our children about the global pandemic? With constant information coming in through a variety of sources, it isn’t unusual for children to feel anxious or uncertain about everything they are hearing and seeing. Children often pick up on not only what we are saying to those around us but also the emotions we are experiencing. It is important to provide children accurate information while also remaining calm so as to reduce anxiety. The following are some ways that may help your family navigate this critical time.
Checking in with Yourself and Your Own Feelings
This can be an anxiety ridden time for all of us; not just children. If you notice that you are feeling anxious, take some time to talk to other trusted adults or engage in a calming activity before trying to speak with your children. Children will react to both what you say and how you act during these times. How you present can either increase or decrease their anxiety.
Monitor TV Viewing and/or Social Media
Try to limit television viewing (at least things like the news) and access to information on the internet/social media. There are many versions of the truth circling and the mass amounts of information can be stressful to children. If you tend to have the news on all day in the background, try to turn it off and turn on music instead. This is a good time to be aware of what is developmentally appropriate for your child’s age; anything beyond this can cause anxiety. Talk to your child about how rumors start and that much of what they hear may be coming from inaccurate sources.
Create a New Routine/Schedule
With so many school closures, it can be hard to figure out how to keep everyone entertained and calm each day. Creating a new sense of normal via a routine while everyone is home can be helpful. Schedule in time for learning different subjects, schedule a “recess” time where you can get your children outside, and engage them in new activities like cooking or baking. You know your children best, so create a “flexible schedule” that works best for their personality.
Be Open and Honest in your Discussions
Start a conversation with your children by asking what they know. What have they learned from others? Do they need help understanding some of the information they’ve heard? Be honest with them, but make sure it is developmentally appropriate. There are many tips out there for speaking to children in different age groups. It is important for everyone, especially children, to be aware of the virus. Be honest with your child about the current situation but reassure them that by practicing good hygiene and staying inside they are doing their part to make everyone safe. If you need more factual information, look to the CDC for guidance.
Help Children Understand what we are all doing to stay Healthy
Many kids are seeing this ‘break’ as time to play with their friends. It is important to share information with your children about why we are keeping distance from friends and neighbors. By helping your children understand that other people can get sick or may have a higher risk of getting sick if they interact with one another, they can better realize why it’s important that they are not playing with friends as much.
This is a great time to remind children of the importance of hygiene, when we should wash our hands and for how long. Covering our mouths when we cough, sneezing into our elbows and showing how germs get spread if we don’t do these things.
For further resources on navigating this time, please refer to the CDC website.
Written by: Lauren Katz, Great Hearts Academy
Lauren Katz is the Director of School Counseling for Great Hearts Academies. Great Hearts Academies is a network of K-12 nonprofit charter schools in Arizona and Texas. Find out more information by visiting https://www.greatheartsamerica.org/.