The coronavirus COVID-19 continues to sweep the globe and even as the curve begins to flatten, the virus is not gone. More than that, the noise around and about this virus continues to get louder, often becoming not only frightening but difficult to discern in its accuracy. It’s already challenging enough for adults to figure out how to act and feel, let alone a child.
Speaking to your children about the coronavirus can sound like a tall order – and it is! – but it’s also crucial. Children are extremely receptive to information, language, and body language, and being at home with you and the family more often means they see and hear more than you might realize. We’re here to help you as you sit down and communicate with them on this difficult topic.
First, let’s discuss trauma. We all know what the word trauma means as an umbrella term; it often refers to violent physical or psychological events. However, trauma can also be something larger, like what’s happening right now. The effects of any traumatic event are unpredictable and can have long term effects. We don’t say any of this to scare you, but it’s important to understand.
The best way to combat these adverse effects is communicating well. A child who understands they are in a safe environment where they are encouraged to feel emotions and ask questions is much better prepared to face something as daunting as the coronavirus. Something as big as COVID-19 leads to “shared trauma,” which is a term for a traumatic event that affects many.
Remain Calm and Available
Once you sit down to have the actual conversation, it’s important to remain as calm as possible. Your children will absorb and react to the emotion that you display. This doesn’t mean “playing it cool” with your words, but instead, be rational yet honest. Explain that this is a big deal, and it’s up to everyone to be as smart and safe as possible about it.
To help your children with this, it’s also important to be available. After your initial talk, it’s likely they will have questions, and making sure they feel comfortable asking them is vital. You can try asking if they have any questions or concerns right then, or just wait for them to come to you, whichever is best. After all, you know your children and their needs.
Avoid Blame and Stigma
Fear and stress over the disease can lead to social stigma towards the place and people who come from where the illness originated. When people associate a disease with a place, it’s easy for the population to get angry at those people, as if they had something to do with the virus, which is obviously not the case.
Regardless, stigma is a huge problem during times like these. Stigma hurts everyone, not just the people being made into a scapegoat, as it leads to increased anger and fear, both of which are also misplaced. Having diverse friends can help your child realize that stigmas are wrong, but it’s also good to communicate that to them.
Reduce Outside Noise
Like we said, the churn news and noise around COVID-19 is extremely loud and constant. There’s always new information, or at least, old information repurposed to seem new, as news channels are covering this extensively since it’s affecting every aspect of life. While this is not a bad thing, it can be really overwhelming for people, psychologically. We are on high alert for signs of danger, looking for any update that could make things better, worse, or even just different.
Adjusting is important, especially for your children. Watch or read the news without them, either before they get up or after they go to sleep. Or have a designated hour for news and make sure to adhere to it. This can help calm everyone, especially since kids are more sensitive to complex information.
Be Honest and Accurate
The coronavirus is scary, and it deserves that fear. It’s not something to shrug about, and everyone must do their part to flatten the curve. It’s tempting to hide the enormity of the problem from your children, but, depending on their age and maturity level, it’s worth it to avoid that practice and be straightforward with them if you can.
This does not mean coming straight out and telling them how bad things are and how stressed or worried you are; they still need to feel safe and protected. But being honest about both the virus, the world, and even your own emotions goes a long way, enabling them to also feel comfortable sharing their emotions and questions.
A Teaching Opportunity
As strange as it may sound, there are a few positives that could potentially come out of this pandemic. One of these is an increased gratitude for things we used to see as everyday parts of life, such as meeting a friend for lunch, visiting a local playground, or going to the movies. Another is that we’ll (hopefully) collectively get much better at hygiene such as washing our hands.
You can use this time to help your kids learn how to stay germ-free by washing their hands, wearing face coverings, and wiping down commonly touched items and surfaces like doorknobs, tables, and remotes.
As it stands, this pandemic is not ending anytime soon, even as some places have begun to ease restrictions. We hope our blog keeps you informed and adds information that benefits you. For questions about our learning centers and how we’re reacting to this time, submit a contact form and we will be happy to answer any questions!