It is a scary, uncertain time for all of us right now. As adults and parents, we are worried about taking care of our families, financial stability, the health and safety of our loved ones, and how on earth to homeschool our children. This pandemic has created a lot of anxiety for our young ones as well, and they have a lot of questions. “How long is this going to last?” “What if I get sick?” “What if someone I know dies?” are questions that we as therapists are starting to hear from kids as young as kindergarten-age. The following are tips to communicate to your children regarding these worries:
Give them simple, honest answers. Kids tend to think in concrete terms and need straight-to-the-point answers. Give them the facts about the virus – how it spreads, how to prevent it, and how to stay safe.
Admit when you are unsure of the answer. We often want to tell our kids something, anything – that will make them feel better. However, if they are asking something such as “how long will this last?”, it’s okay to admit that you’re unsure instead of giving them false hope. Reassure them that the one thing you do know is that this is temporary and will pass.
Put the power in their hands. It’s important to focus on what we have control over, and remind your kids of this as well. Communicating the importance of washing your hands, cleaning devices, and social distancing helps kids realize that they play a part in their own health and can ease their anxiety about a situation that feels out of their control.
Validation and empathy. We have all had to give up our idea of what spring was going to look like for us. We had activities, vacations, playdates, and sports planned that now have been taken away from us. Allowing your children the space to feel that loss and the negative emotions that come with it is a great way to let them know that you understand and that their feelings matter. Say validating statements such as, “it’s so frustrating that you’re not able to start soccer this month. I know you were looking forward to that.”
Model the behavior you want to see. If you are feeling anxious yourself, this is the time to start evaluating the way you tend to handle stress. Your child will model your coping skills. Make sure to take care of yourself, set aside time for calming activities, and turn off the news to avoid anxiety triggers.
Although this will be a difficult road ahead, it is important to develop a perspective of positive growth and connection in these times. Utilize this time to spend quality time with your family and learn things about each other you never knew before. Build resilience together, and make time for yourself, as well.