It’s normal to feel uncertain, confused, and even scared by the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. The CDC has even released a list of people/groups who respond more strongly to the stress of a crisis. That list includes children and teens.
Even if you, yourself, are feeling uncertain and scared, it’s important to talk to your child about their fears regarding the pandemic. Talking to your children about their health can (and should) start at a young age, no matter the state of the world, using appropriate language for that age. By having open communication about their health and starting those conversations early, you can encourage them to make lasting healthy habits.
It’s also important to talk to them about the state of the world. Children may see things on television or hear things from other people and get scared. As their parent, knowing how to appropriately discuss what is happening can ease those fears and keep them safe at the same time.
So, how can you talk with your child about the pandemic?
Making Sure Your Child Understands What’s Going On
It’s easy for the ever-changing situation surrounding this pandemic to be confusing and scary for adults. So, imagine how your child might feel if they’re only getting bits and pieces of information.
Making sure they have the right information can help to alleviate those fears. Again, using age-appropriate language is key, but don’t be afraid to tell your child about some of the realities that are happening. Let them know that it is okay for them to feel a certain way, because everyone responds to COVID-19 in their own way.
For children, things like social isolation and not seeing their friends can be especially difficult, so it’s important to talk to them about why those measures are being put in place. You can also discuss how the pandemic is impacting other people, including senior citizens, children in foster care, businesses, and in-person events. You may be able to turn your child’s fears into motivation and find ways you can serve your community as a family.
Keeping Them Safe
In addition to understanding what the pandemic is, your child needs to know how to stay safe and healthy during this time.
Currently, most states have different rules and orders in place regarding the safety of children, and as the school year draws nearer, districts are already taking extra precautions. Some are opening virtually, while others are doing a combination of eLearning and in-person. Some schools, however, are opening fully in-person. Whether your child is school-age or not, it’s important that they know how to stay safe. So, before they go to school, preschool, or a playgroup, be sure they know how to:
Wear a mask
Wash their hands
Practice proper hygiene when sneezing/coughing
Social distancing is difficult for children, but it’s still a good idea to teach your child that practice, as well. When you tell them it is about their health and wellbeing and that you want to keep them safe, they will be more likely to listen and feel less worried about possibly getting sick.
Ways to Adapt to a “New Normal”
One of the best ways to ease some of your child’s uncertainties and fears is to keep things as normal as possible. That might feel next to impossible right now. But, there are ways in which you can ease your child’s anxiety that can be done safely, either from the comfort of your own home or outside. Some of those techniques include:
Giving them a “safe space” within the house when they feel scared
Encouraging them to write their feelings in a journal
Continuing to “talk it out” if they are worried or confused
Getting outside and exercising with your child is also a great way to assuage some of their fears while making sure they stay physically healthy, too. Most kids love being outside and staying active. So, whether you’re cycling around the neighborhood or going to their favorite park, letting your child be your “workout buddy” will have benefits for both of you. Plus, it can provide a welcome distraction to the uncertainty we seem to be living in.
Keep talking to your child, and be ready to answer the hard questions. By offering consistent reassurance, you can help to keep your child healthy mentally healthy and limit their fears.
Jori Hamilton is an experienced writer residing in the Northwestern U.S. She covers a wide range of subjects but takes a particular interest in covering topics related to child development, health and wellness, mindfulness, and productivity. To learn more about Jori, you can follow her on Twitter and LinkedIn