Certainly, we are all under an undue amount of stress in these uncertain times. Children are no exception to this stress. There is a certain degree of social isolation without school, sports and other activities. They can certainly feel the stress, fear, and uncertainty that emanate from media outlets. Here are some tips to help everyone discuss this with your kids.
First, there is an unwritten rule in medicine that in a critical situation the first thing you should do is take your own pulse. Calm yourself. Children are very perceptive; they can feel that you are nervous or scared. Ask them what they know or have heard about coronavirus. Children are aware of the media and the things that are going on around them, even if they seem distracted. Understanding what they know and what they are afraid of is the first step to a meaningful conversation.
Second, try and direct these fears directly. Certainly, the level of detail should be age appropriate but try to be truthful and factual. For example, it is a fact that children in general do not generally get seriously ill with this virus. There have been no recorded deaths in kids 10 or younger. There have been seriously ill teens and tweens, but those numbers have been very low. The inevitable question is then “why do we have to miss school/sports/activities and stay at home. The answer is to protect people with chronic illness and those over 60 who are at greater risk. Addressing fears and being truthful and factual will lead to meaningful conversations.
Third, try and stay busy, especially those children who need or crave structure. Keeping moving with exercise, games and activities keeps the body healthy and the mind in the right place. Paint, play board games, journal, and play outside.
Fourth, there is great concern that the level of overall stress will cause an increase in child abuse. Certainly, parents under fear and financial stress are more likely to snap. Children, not in school, cooped up in the house are more likely to misbehave. Now more than ever I encourage parents to stop and take 10 quiet seconds before acting on any misbehavior. I encourage time out more than ever in these trying times. Families will need to get through this together with patience and understanding. I encourage every parent to read the AAP’s “Positive Parenting & COVID-19: tips to keep the calm at home” on their website for further information.
Stay Sane and Stay Safe.