Keeping our children away from exposure to Coronavirus will be every parent’s top priority for the foreseeable future. But exclusively focusing on the physical would be a mistake. The mental toll the pandemic will take on all of us, especially those who are less equipped to deal with stress, promises to be a daunting byproduct of these unprecedented times.
The good news is that just as you can take many steps to safeguard their physical health, you can also do things to protect their mental and emotional wellbeing. Our world may be put on hold, but this can still be a time to strengthen our child’s character and create an even stronger parent-child bond.
My five year old to me just now:
‘Dad hold my hand’
She jumps back.
‘CORONAVIRUS - what are you doing?’
Kids adapt quicker than adults.#survival
— The Bee Guy (@the_beeguy) March 13, 2020
So, how do you ease the fears of your children while also prepping them to be realistic about the pandemic that is beyond your control? Here are some tips to help them — and you — be ready for upcoming times.
Do Dialogue. Have them talk about knowledge of Coronavirus and their feelings and let them know it’s ok to be scared. Remind them, too, that it’s also ok if they don’t feel like chatting. Your job is simply to be there and let them know you’re doing everything in your power to keep them safe.
Prepare for what’s coming. Discuss “what ifs” as a family including what precautions they need to take in public and what steps to take to limit exposure. As a family, you should also contemplate what you will do if someone in the family shows symptoms of the virus.
Inform but protect. News reports can be scary and hard to understand, especially for children. Talk with your kids about what they’ve already seen and heard. The best rule of thumb: watch or listen to the news together and discuss the reality of the situation. It would be wise to keep younger children away from additional media coverage as what they may hear on TV may sound scarier than it actually is.
Easy on the sugar(coating). Share as much as they can handle. Consider the facts – they are the basis for your family plan, after all -- but be mindful of what’s appropriate for them to hear. Encourage them to ask questions, and answer them in a straightforward and age-appropriate way. Don’t feel you have to have all the answers; but be sure to tell them you’ll do your best to give them as much information as possible.
Give them control. To avoid feelings of helplessness, let kids make choices such as what activities to do if you have to spend a lot of time at home. Give them a job such as deciding on snacks, what to watch or read, or what games to play.
Keep yourself in check. Kids pick up your cues – and overhear your conversations – more than you think. If you’re calm and in control (or as in control as you can be), they will feel safer and calmer.
Note behavior changes. There is no getting around it – the global pandemic can be terrifying for your kids. How your child is affected depends largely on their age and the severity of the situation. Younger children may suddenly turn clingy while older kids may push you away. Seek professional help should any unusual behaviors persist.