A few years from now, when my kids will be older, they’ll probably hang out with their friends and someone will ask: “Hi remember the Corona? When everything was closed?”
“Yes!” they’ll replay “wow...that was crazy…”
Well actually, I don’t know what will their answer be and what will they remember. But I do know that I have a big influence on how we manage through this time and what will they remember from it.
As a parent, my most important job is to keep my kids safe both physically and emotionally. For the physical part, I follow the instructions, stay home and make sure they practice good hygiene. But what about the emotional?
How can I help them cope with this unstable situation? How can I support and help them feel safe but stay alert?
As a mother and a parent coach, I’m a big fan of open communication. I believe that talking with my kids, sharing what I know and some of my feelings, help to create a calm atmosphere.
Here are some ideas:
Who should I begin with?
Am I anxious? Am I scared? How do my feelings affect my everyday behavior?
My children are looking at me, examining my behavior, making their own conclusions based on that.
If I wish to reduce their stress levels, telling them not to worry is not enough. I should be calm as well and my body language should be confident. Therefore, It’s important that I’ll take care of myself and practice what helps me relax: exercise, sleep, talk with a friend, limit the amount of news I’m exposed to, and more. Self-care is not a luxury it’s what I need for healthy daily functioning and for keeping the anxiety from taking over.
How should I Talk with my Kids About Coronavirus?
Don’t be afraid to talk - My first instinct as a parent is to protect my child. Prevent him or her from being exposed to the news. However, no matter how young they are, kids sense the atmosphere and the caregiver’s mood. When they are at school, they are exposed to what’s going on whether it’s from a snippet of news briefing or from other kids at school. Not talking about something can actually make them worry more. Talking with my child is an opportunity to filter the news, convey the facts and set the emotional tone. My goal is to help him or her to feel informed and reassured.
Start with a question - “Do you know why school is closed?” “Do you know what social distance is?” by asking I wish to understand what my child already knows, did he or she get everything right or should I correct some of the information.
Be developmentally appropriate. My explanation should consider my child’s age and developmental stage. I shouldn’t volunteer too much information, as this may be overwhelming.
Be available for questions - Encouraging kids to ask questions is a wonderful way to help them reduce stress. On most of them, I can probably answer honestly and clearly. On those I can’t - It’s okay to say “I don’t know”. What matters is that I’m being available to my child.
Don’t dismiss the child’s fears - If my child is afraid for some reason, I should take it seriously. Saying “You’ll be fine” or “don’t worry” won’t help. Most likely, my child will feel alone and misunderstood. I should listen and understand what exactly my child is feeling. Then, after calming down, I can bring it up again and talk about ways I can help deal with the fear.
End conversation with a proactive and positive note - “We are staying home so we can help reduce the virus spreading”, “We are washing our hands so it will help us to stay healthy”. “We can talk with our friends on video”
Keep talking - Having one conversation is great but not enough. I need to make sure that my kids know the lines of communication are open. I can do that by telling them about developments, changes, etc.
In times like these, when daily routines are changing constantly, my kids need me as calm and confident as I can be. They look to me for information about how to interpret the situation.
It’s true, I don’t have the answers for everything, but as long as I’ll be there for them, listen and share my point of view, I’m helping them to cope better.
“The opposite of worry” Lawrence J. Cohen Ph.D.