Between the constant influx of information surrounding COVID-19 on television news and the abrupt disruption to our daily lives, children may begin to feel a sense of worry for their safety. Schools are closed, they can’t visit friends or loved ones and even may struggle to understand why they can’t play with that neighbor across the street.
Many parents may be wondering how to address their children regarding the current global health pandemic as they themselves grapple with this unprecedented situation. The following should prove as helpful tips for parents to inform their children about the situation without inciting unnecessary fear.
Keep Calm and Reassuring
Children are aware of the changes that have affected our lives within the past few weeks, and they may be taking cues from adults at home. It’s very important to maintain a sense of peace within your household, despite what may be airing on the news and is printed in newspapers. By remaining calm throughout this crisis, you can alleviate much of the anxiety that your children may be feeling; however, it is still necessary to be honest. Reassure children by letting them know that they are safe because your household is practicing the advised steps to stay healthy.
It’s important to explain this situation honestly to children but being developmentally appropriate is equally important to keep in mind. Volunteering too much information can increase a child’s fear or worry, so make sure that they feel free and comfortable to ask you any questions they may have regarding COVID-19 and social distancing.
In regard to social distancing and depending on a child’s age, they may or may not understand the concept fully. Be sure to let children know that their family is following the guidelines that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has in place – not only for the safety of themselves, but for people all over the world who are fighting the very same virus. To combat frustration that children may feel due to being unable to see their extended family and friends, offer them the option of video chatting. Connecting virtually can help children feel a sense of normalcy and less anxiety.
Additionally, as much as there are credible sources of news, there is also much misinformation circulating right now. Stigma is something that all parents should discuss with their children – this virus does not discriminate based on race or ethnicity, and neither should we. Assumptions made about those who have contracted COVID-19 should always be avoided.
Stick to a Routine and Keep Them Updated
We are all struggling to adapt to this new environment in which we work, live, and communicate very differently than just a month or so ago. Applying consistent structure, however, can help us cope and regain a stronger sense of normalcy. Regular mealtimes, bedtimes, and other repetitive daily activities can help children stay happy and healthy.
Above all, make sure children know that the lines of communication are open. It can be helpful and assuring to them to know that they are not alone in their feelings of grief and confusion, and that people all across the world are feeling the same way.
Finally, it’s okay to admit to our children that we don’t have the answers to everything, as long as they know their parents and older loved ones will keep them safe, healthy, and updated, too.