This pandemic and Shelter In Place has shaken up the world. As adults we know how to process our emotions and can understand the science behind Coronavirus. Still, we feel stunned and a bit helpless in the face of it; and we really don't know what to do with some of these feelings. There is sadness, compassion, hope, depression and a feeling of being out of sorts.
So just imagine what our kids are feeling! We need to talk to them ourselves to drown out some of the political and misinformations. One way to start the conversation is with a question or two--make sure they are open-ended and then follow up with more precise questions; this helps to reveal how kids are processing information.which helps us figure out some responses that are age-appropriate for our child. Here are some basic ways to talk to your kids about it, broken down by age. And after, I will tell you a few good things about this time.
Preschool Kids (Ages 2- 6):
Our little ones are more in tune to and affected by parental emotions than older kids. For them, especially, be sure to stay calm around them. In addition:
Turn off the TV, computers, smart speakers when they are around. They will hear things or see images that are potentially scary.
Be careful in talking about the situation with other adults or older siblings around them.
Younger kids may need a bit more TLC and cuddles than older kids. If you’re concerned about transmitting illness, then sitting close, or perhaps sleeping in the same room is comforting.
Make preventive measures such as washing hands or wiping surfaces a playful game.
School-age Children (Ages 7-12):
Kids in grades 1-6 can understand more, you can explain that the germs causing COVID-19 are like ones that cause a cold. Remind them that they spread easily, but that we can also help prevent them by washing our hands, and using tissues and sanitizer/alcohol wipes.
Try to keep to daily schedules as typical as you can, even though you’re quarantined. Kids thrive with routine and it helps keep them safe and feel like they are in control.
Younger school-age kids use playtime to cope with their fears. They may play doctor or nurse; may want to take care of a doll or even build a lego hospital. This is a good way for you to help them manage their anxieties. This may mean we have to play the same games over and over—just breathe and do it!
Some school-age kids will become more clingy and demanding. Such “regression” is a way of expressing fear. Though this may be frustrating when we are together 24/7, take a breath and support them by spending more time reading to them, or doing crafts or even watch tv together. Just don’t have the news on!
Teenagers (Ages 13 – 18+):
Teens have heard a lot about COVID-19 and its potential danger. They understand how it spreads, prevention, and risks. Have open conversations, beginning with open-ended questions about what they know, what they are worried about, and how they are feeling.
Kids this age are mature enough to watch the news with you or go online and explore trusted sites to learn more about the disease. Sit with them while viewing and have conversations about what they see and read, and how the illness may impact their lives.
Have your teens play with their siblings, go shopping, even cook. Including them helps them feel valued, which can lessen anxiety.
As difficult as this time is, I do believe we will walk away from it with some positives. For me, I love the way I have connected with friends and family by video chat. I mean we could have done it before--but we didn't. So I think that will stay with us--that desire for connection. For our kids I think they will learn a lot. How to live with some fear and a lot of uncertainty. By navigating that, they will build inner strength to know they will be ok. And the biggest win in my mind? Resilience. Kids are resilient when given the chance or need to be; but it takes getting through something tough to build that quality.
What is something good you think we're learning? Leave a comment below. Stay safe and healthy!