by Tonya Schaeffer M.Ed, LPCC-S
This is new territory for each and every one of us. It is unlikely we have ever had to consider how to talk to our children about a global pandemic. The most important thing to try to do is remain as calm and reassuring as you possibly can when talking to your children about this virus.
Managing your own stress and anxiety
If you are feeling anxious or paranoid yourself, this is not the time to talk to your children. Take some time to calm down and then speak to your kids. They will pick up on your cues and you can set the tone. If you are anxious or scared, they will feel similarly.
Don’t be afraid to talk about the Coronavirus
It is important, to be honest with your kids. When we don’t have information or knowledge about something, we might try to fill in the blanks. Children might hear rumors and misinformation, and this is likely to increase anxiety. Be cautious of what your children are seeing, hearing and reading online. Consider reducing screen time focused on COVID-19. Don’t volunteer too much information, but try to have an open dialogue for them to ask questions and answer as honestly as you can. Sometimes kids are more willing to open up when they are doing an activity. Consider going out for a walk to have these conversations, or toss a ball or play a board game. Express to them that as their parent you are going to take care of them. Let them know you are available to listen and talk.
Validate these very real feelings
Since the schools have closed, vacations have been canceled, and social distancing has been implemented, it is likely to cause feelings of loss, sadness, and isolation. Validate these very real feelings. Tell your children that you know this a difficult time for them. Acknowledge that there is a lot of loss during this time. Adults and children both could be feeling grief. Children might be feeling the loss of their daily structure, loss of school, loss of being with friends, and spring sports halted. Unfortunately, the list can go on and on. Validating this is sad and a hard time for them. They want to know you can relate to these very real issues. But be very careful not to make it about you. They need validation, reassurance and a feeling of being safe.
Develop a plan for each day
It might be helpful to sit down with your family and develop a plan for each day. We know our life is likely to change every day at this point. So this could prove to be difficult, but the hope is your children will feel more in control, more secure and safe having a plan.
You will get through this together
It is okay to not have all the answers. But you want your kids to know you are handling this new normal. You might say you are learning as much as you can and you want to give them the most accurate news as possible. Relay to them you will keep them informed of anything that will impact them. But send this message with as much reassurance as you can that you will get through this together.
Get physical exercise
Encourage your kids to get physical exercise, take a walk, use your home gym equipment. A home gym doesn’t have to be a room full of equipment. Use a jump rope, toss a ball, use cans of soup as weights. Use what you have around your house as gym equipment.
Go out side and walk! I’ve walked around Loveland every day and it has helped me stay calm through all this ever changing world. pull up YouTube videos for yoga and mediation.
A great outlet for kids and parents is journaling. You can write about thoughts, fears, questions or anything at all! It is important to stop and think about some of the positives that are coming out of this uncertain time.
We all have more time with our families now. Use this as a gift, spend time outside, pull out board games, or watch some classic movies. It may seem daunting in the moment, but we will all get through this trying time together.
Hope Restored Counseling Services was established in Loveland on June 20, 2008 during another difficult time in our world. We wanted to take a moment to let you know we are here for you and if you would like to schedule please go to our website to schedule. We are also in the process of setting up Telehealth sessions.