It’s no secret your child knows about the Coronavirus pandemic. Schools are out. Parents are working from home. Social events have been cancelled. And while they may be enjoying this break from normal (most likely school) there’s bound to be some questions and anxiety your little one has about what’s going on.
First and Foremost, Get Calm
No matter what you say to your child, if it comes from a place of fear, anxiety, stress, etc. they will pick up on it. If you say, “Everything is going to be alright” without making eye contact and in a clipped tone, it may signal to your child that everything will not be alright and that you may not be telling the whole truth.
If you’re struggling with your own feelings of anxiety and stress from everything that’s going on, there’s two things to do:
1. Acknowledge these feelings to yourself and 2. Decide on a time when you can talk to your child about what’s going on in a way you feel comfortable and/or will have support (i.e. after yoga or if a spouse is home).
Be Developmentally Honest
You know your child better than anyone and you’ll know whether or not they can understand big words, like “Pandemic”.
You want to make sure that when you’re explaining what’s going on and why things are changing you’re honest with your child and in a way they can understand.
For example, for your five year old son, you might say, “Right now, a lot of people are getting sick. It’s important that we follow certain rules so we can try not to get sick, too.” Whereas with your eleven year-old daughter you might say, “Right now, there is something called a ‘pandemic’ going on. This is when people all over the world are sick with the same cold, at the same time. Limiting our time outside of the house with others who might be sick will help us stay as healthy as we can.”
Share Your Feelings Appropriately
Lastly, it’s OKAY to share with your children that you feel a little scared and anxious, too! This models healthy emotional conversations and lets your child know feelings, all feelings, are okay and can be discussed.
The key with sharing your feelings is to share how you manage those feelings so your children can learn that even when feeling big feelings we can be okay.
Saying something like, “Mommy is a little scared about what’s going on, too. When I feel scared, I talk to daddy (or a friend/family member) about it and we make a plan so we can stay safe.”
Inviting your child to play with you about what’s going on can help your child make sense of their world, with you as their guide. Or even drawing pictures together of what scares each of you and how to tame those fears can be an excellent therapeutic and bonding exercise.
There’s No Right or Wrong
Even if you’ve already spoken to your child about what’s happening, it’s important to check in with them throughout and see if anything is changing. Maybe they’re getting used to the new normal or maybe they’re really missing their routine.
You can always say, “Remember when we talked about this last week? Well, I got some new information and…” or “I was thinking about what I said and I wondered if you had any other questions”.
Modeling authenticity, the willingness to be imperfect, and communicating about emotions will do wonders for you and child not only now, but in the long run.