It’s hard to decide whether “ignorance is bliss” applies to the current situation. It’s a difficult time for all of us – and it’s tough to imagine how it might feel to be in the dark the whole time.
In any case, surely your children have questions about the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic… and it can be tricky to know what to say.
On one hand, they don’t need all the details. (In fact, even us adults don’t know all the details.) But on the other hand, you want to do anything you can to help your child stay optimistic and strong.
Honestly, there are no right answers – but you can still learn a lot from experts! So below you’ll find 8 tips from therapists and educators on how to talk to your kids during this sensitive time:
1. Don’t be afraid to discuss the coronavirus.
By now, most children are aware that something is happening, and they’re likely familiar with the coronavirus to some degree. Staying silent or ignoring the situation could make your child more worried, so experts recommend sticking to the facts and setting the emotional tone yourself.
“You take on the news and you’re the person who filters the news to your kid,” explains Janine Domingues, PhD, a child psychologist at the Child Mind Institute. Focus on the positives and do your best to find fact-based information.
Check the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website for reliable information about COVID-19. That way, you have the straight facts – and kids avoid seeing scary headlines.
2. Listen to your child for cues.
Remember, you don’t have to do all the talking. Paying attention to questions can help you decide what you need to discuss – and what you don’t.
You don’t want to prompt specific questions, but instead just ask your child about what they’ve heard already. Don’t worry if you don’t have the answers. The goal here is to learn about what your child needs, so you can respond appropriately.
3. Don’t go overboard – stick to their level of understanding.
Following on the previous point, you don’t have to worry about giving your child a complete understanding of the situation. Too many facts can be overwhelming, and sometimes all your child needs is a reassuring voice that lets them know you’re available.
And if your child asks about something you don’t have the answer to, just let them know. You can even use the question as a chance to find out together!
4. Keep your own anxieties separate.
We’re all worried right now. Letting your child see that can cause them to worry as well – which may not be necessary. You don’t need to hide your emotions, and you should be honest, but it’s best to save the conversations for moments when you’re feeling strong.
When you’re feeling most anxious or panicked, that isn’t the time to talk to your kids about what’s happening with the coronavirus,” warns Dr. Domingues.
5. Stay focused on what you can do.
“Kids feel empowered when they know what to do to keep themselves safe,” says Jamie Howard, PhD, a child psychologist at the Child Mind Institute. When you show your child that you’re taking proper measures to stay safe, they’ll feel reassured.
Even better, your child will be excited to participate – and they’ll be more likely to stay safe themselves. You can even have some fun with your new routines, such as singing songs while washing your hands or trying one of these fun activities.
6. If your child is worried about their health, reassure them.
It’s normal for children to hear about something scary on the news and think it’s coming straight for them. It’s alright to reassure them that symptoms are mild for children, and that it’s unlikely they’ll catch it as long as they follow the precautions.
7. Follow your normal routines.
There’s no doubt that the virus is disrupting normal life – but experts suggest you should stick to your routine as best you can, even if it involves creating a new temporary one.
“We don’t like uncertainty, so staying rooted in routines and predictability is going to be helpful right now,” says Dr. Domingues. This is even more critical if your child’s school is closed – they need some structure to replace it.
One trick is to treat this like a summer vacation – what would you normally do to keep them occupied? Add a touch of education and you have the makings of a fulfilling new routine!
8. Stay in communication.
Not only should you act as a “filter” for your child, you should also keep that filter going. Let your child know that you’re watching for updates and will keep them in the loop.
Dr. Domingues recommends saying something like, “Even though we don’t have the answers to everything right now, know that once we know more, mom or dad will let you know, too.”
What do you think? How have your children been reacting to this situation? Let us know in the comments below!