I know many of us are dealing with stressors we never anticipated as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. It is understandable that this situation is also causing a lot of stress for our children. Here are some things to keep in mind when discussing coronavirus with your children.
- Do communicate age-appropriate facts and information about the situation. Children respond well with clear communication. It can be really helpful to discuss the ways in which your child’s life may be impacted by coronavirus on a daily basis. “We CAN go to the park but we CANNOT play on the play equipment right now because it is not safe right now because of coronavirus.” It is also helpful to remind them that this situation will not last forever even though it seems like it at this moment.
- Do have open dialogue daily with your children. It is important for children to feel that they are able to approach you when they need to discuss it. Remember that children will often communicate during times that seem unexpected. Do your best to make time when they are ready to talk. Children also respond well to factual information so try to stick to what is known about this situation rather than what is unknown.
- Do have extra patience. You may be noticing your child is acting out more than typical. Changes to behavior are not uncommon during any major transition but are especially true during this circumstance when so much is unknown. Do your best to remember that your child may be struggling to process this situation and does not have the same ability as an adult to understand where these feelings may be originating. If your child is really struggling with anxiety or increases in challenging behaviors as a result of this situation reach out to their health care provider for more options about what might be helpful.
- Do stay connected. Talking to family and friends has never been more important. Social isolation is just as hard, if not harder for children to manage. Keeping them connected with family and friends through video chats, phone calls, and letter writing helpful to maintain that connection. If your child is school-age try to connect with a peer in their class at least once per week as this can have a great impact on lifting spirits and giving a feeling of normalcy.
- Do a daily check-in. This is something that my girls and I do routinely and it is a helpful way for me to get a better understanding of how they are doing and open up the conversation. I ask them every night towards the end of dinner to tell me their “rose, thorn, and bud” for the day. The rose is the best part of their day, the thorn is the worst part of their day, and the bud is their hope for tomorrow. This is a simple and very fun way to get children engaged.
Other tips that may be helpful during the coronavirus pandemic:
- Do try to spend time outside. It’s no secret that time spent outdoors can lower stress. Of course, make sure you are able to spend time outside in a responsible way and maintain social distancing.
- Do get creative. This is a great time to explore new crafts, make care for loved ones, explore the world virtually, play games, have fun! It is interesting that we live in such a hurry-up-and-go mindset that we are all having a hard time slowing down. This can provide a great opportunity to reconnect as a family. Setting aside creative art or playtime every day helps your child to engage their brain in a productive way which can also lower stress levels.
- Do give your child some form of control in their daily life. Having your child choose the dinner, which way to walk down the street on your walk, the family night board game, etc can be really helpful at times when everything is feeling out of control
- Do know you are doing a good job! To say this situation is extremely challenging is an understatement. We are all going to have good days and bad days during this time and that’s ok. We will make it out the other side.