Once you have reliable, scientific information about the Coronavirus, you will be able to confidently talk to your kids about it.
Your kids are looking to you and how you behave and react to understand what is going on and to figure out how they should act and react.
You know they are hearing things from other people and the media about the virus so it is up to you, as aware parents to help them understand the situation. You’ll want to give them facts based on their developmental level, teach them ways to prevent infection, show them how to manage their strong emotions and give them a sense of control in this time of uncertainty.
Your reactions are critical because your kids listen to you and watch you as you handle this stressful situation. They learn from you because you are their most important teachers and because they don’t have the life experience to know what to do or how to handle this uncertain situation.
Talking with your kids:
Take the time to care for you first before you talk to them about what is going on.
Manage your stress in healthy ways:
- Get reliable information about what is going on from good websites like the CDC or the WHO.
- Think about other times in your life where you were under stress and handled it well.
- Practice deep breathing to slow down your stress response.
- Take a walk in nature.
- Read something that helps you feel safe and calm.
- Take a break from social media and play with your kids
When you are all calm and relaxed is the best time to talk with your kids.
- Ask them what they have been hearing and feeling.
- Turn off all social media and listen to them with your full attention, without interrupting, judging or making fun of what they’re saying.
- Before you answer ask simple questions to make sure you have really identified their worries.
- Take three deep breaths and then answer their questions and concerns calmly, in age-appropriate language. Only answer the question they asked. Use simple language, be brief and don’t give too much detail.
- If you don’t know the answer to their questions tell them you don’t but will look for an answer for them.
- If they have expressed strong feelings ask them to name their feelings and then give them healthy ways to manage them. Share with them what you do to manage your strong feelings in healthy ways. If you can’t think of anything: Deep breathing and exercise are easy, healthy ways to relieve and release strong emotions.
Reassuring your kids
- Let them know you and the people in charge will do everything you can to keep them safe.
- Tell them that so far most of the people that have gotten sick have had mild symptoms, especially children.
- Reassure them that they have strong immune systems that specialize in fighting off infections.
- Remind them of how healthy they usually are even though there are germs all around them all the time.
- Limit their media exposure.
Empowering your kids
Let them know that there are things they can do to stay healthy.
- They can eat vegetables and fruits, drink water, avoid sugar and exercise to keep their immune systems strong.
- They can get rid of the virus by washing their hands and using hand sanitizer properly.
- They can sneeze into their elbows or into a tissue and then throw the tissues out to keep others safe.
- Come up with things you can do together as a family to stay healthy and help others stay healthy especially older relatives like grandparents, aunts and, uncles.
- Emotional stress weakens the immune system. In addition to deep breathing and exercise, gratitude is a great antidote to stress. Train your kids to look for and write down what is going right in their lives once a day in a special gratitude journal.
- Brainstorm screen-free activities they and you can do in case of school closures
It’s very important that you keep your kids informed and to watch them for signs they are having problems coping. This can appear as:
- Sleep problems.
- Physical complaints like tiredness, headaches or tummy aches.
- Behavioral changes like regression, being more demanding or more aggressive than usual.
- Emotional symptoms like sadness, excessive worry, depression, anxiety.
If you notice any of these, address them calmly and quickly. If you need help, ask an expert. The sooner you help your child feel better the healthier they will be.