We’d love to think we can protect our kids from troubling news, but we know it’s not easy to do.
Coronavirus continues to spread, and students are heading back to school. Parents, students and teachers are worried. There’s no hiding from reality. If you are a parent, have you talked honestly to your kids about the pandemic? Maybe you haven’t yet, because you just don’t know what to say.
Psychologists and health experts suggest several tips for starting the conversation—and for keeping the lines of communication open.
Tips from New Directions
Get the facts
We’re bombarded with information; it’s a lot to process and comprehend even as adults. Before you try to explain things to your child, be sure you have a clear understanding of the scope and the risks. The CDC’s coronavirus page is a great place to find reliable, up-to-date information. Check it often.
Talk to your child at their age level
The best advice for kids of all ages is to begin the conversation by asking a few questions. Find out what they’ve already heard at school and what they may be worried about. Then try to speak just to their specific concerns and questions and avoid filling them with details they don’t need to hear that may cause more worry. Also, remember that some kids want to talk it all out, others not so much. Don’t force the conversation, but let them know you’re ready to listen and talk when they are.
Help your child take control
Nothing is more stressful for a child (or an adult) than feeling helpless. It’s important to reassure your child that you, along with doctors, nurses and other professionals, are working hard to keep everyone safe. It’s also important to teach your child how to help themselves. Simple lessons include:
- Wash away the germs! (Sing Happy Birthday two times while you soap and rinse)
- Wear a mask in public. Wearing a mask shows you care about the health of the people around you. These days it is good manners.
- Stay at least six feet from people outside those you live with when you aren’t wearing a mask. Let your children know it is better to wave a hello than to give a hug.
- Be a healthy habits person! (Eat good foods and get plenty of rest)
Stick to a family routine
Of course, the challenge is how to navigate the “new normal” we find ourselves in. Some students are in school and others are taking virtual classes. Your child may or may not be able to see friends. You may or may not be back in your office working. You and your children may be studying and working in the same room at your house. Still make an effort to do all you can to keep to your family’s regular routine. Even if your child is home from school, keep the days structured, and maintain the same mealtimes and bedtimes. And, of course, keeping busy and active keeps little minds off worrisome things.
Above all, keep calm and carry on
As the adult, your job is to be a calming and reassuring presence in your child’s life. When you talk to them about coronavirus, be honest, but try not to let your inner worries come out. In that same calm voice, let your child know that they can always come to you if they feel afraid of what they hear or see…and that they can count on you for honest answers.
As coronavirus continues and flu season begins, keep listening and learning yourself, and reassure your child that when you know more, you’ll always share.
New Directions offers emotional support, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.