Visit SCL Health's Coronavirus Information and Resources page for more information.
Closed schools and daycare's, canceled play dates, sporting events, proms and graduations - our kids are experiencing a lot of change to their normal day-to-day lives to help flatten the curve and spread of the Coronavirus.
It’s only natural for parents, caretakers, teachers and trusted adults to want to protect and shelter children from the difficult reality of what we are all facing as we move through these unprecedented times. But, psychologists, counselors and health experts agree it’s important we are talking honestly, in an age-appropriate manner with our children about the impacts of the Coronavirus. Here are some tips to help you prepare for talking with your child:
Understand the Facts
Parents, family members, caretakers, teachers and other trusted adults play an important role in helping children process and understand what they are hearing from their peers, on television, radio and online. Helping your children make sense of the information they are hearing about COVID-19 in a way that is honest and accurate can minimize the anxiety and fear they may be feeling. In order to do that, you need to make sure you are clear on the facts about the disease. Visit credible sources like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for accurate, up-to-date information about the virus, including ways to help prevent the spread. Once you know the facts, take time to help your children make sense of the information they have heard about Coronavirus.
Make yourself available to listen and talk
Make the time to check in with your children as often as possible. Be sure children know they can come to you with questions or to express how they may be feeling. You can start by asking age-appropriate questions about how they are feeling or what they have heard, seen or read about related to Coronavirus. Try to listen to understand and validate their concerns. Remember some kids may want to talk through all this, and some kids may process things differently. Either way, make sure children know you are a safe person to come to if and when they have questions or concerns.
Find ways for your child to feel in control
One of the biggest ways to cause stress and anxiety in children is when they feel like they don’t have any control. It is important to reassure children that the adults in your family, doctors, nurses and other professionals are working very hard to keep everyone safe. You can also teach your children how they can help by controlling the things they can control, like how to wash their hands properly and why it’s important, sneezing and coughing into a tissue or their elbow, eating nutritious foods, and getting plenty of rest.
You can also help them stay positive by encouraging them to participate in an act of kindness. Simple crafts like making thank you cards for front line healthcare workers, grocery store clerks and delivery drivers, or using sidewalk chalk to draw positive pictures and messages for neighbors can relieve anxiety for children and help them feel like they are making a difference for others.
Do your best to stick to a routine
This one can be a challenge, we get it. Nothing seems normal right now, let alone your family routine. Still, try to make an effort to stick to a daily routine so that your children have an understanding of what their day looks like. Even if it is as simple as making sure meals are served around the same time every day. Having predictable guideposts throughout the day can provide structure that can help children feel safe and secure.
Stay calm and offer reassurance
As a trusted adult in your child’s life, it is important that you are a calm reassuring presence. We know you may be feeling the same overwhelm, anxiety, fear or uncertainty your children are feeling, and that’s okay. Try your best to remain calm and let your children know you are always there for them if they feel afraid of what they hear or see and that they can count on you for honest answers to their questions.
Adults and children alike are experiencing heightened levels of anxiety and stress - if you need help navigating you and your family’s emotional wellbeing we encourage you to reach out to a mental health care provider. Many mental health care providers are offering their services through video visits and can support you from the safety and comfort of your own home.