As parents, we are in uncharted territory supporting our kids emotionally through the global pandemic that’s upon us with coronavirus (COVID-19). However, as with any time of crisis, there are several basic guidelines we can follow to support our children through this turbulent time.
- Share the truth: Determining what is true and what is false has been difficult with this particular crisis, but we encourage you to share age-appropriate facts with your children. Sharing the truth with them as to why their lives have changed so dramatically in recent weeks is key to helping them feel aware and secure. Providing them with a brief description of what is happening in our world right now will help them decipher what is true when they hear information from their friends or overhear news or adult conversations.
- Limit their exposure to media: In the era of the 24-hour news cycle and with the prominence of social media, it’s hard to escape messages pertaining to COVID-19. Limiting your child’s exposure when possible will help lessen their anxiety and fear. The constant bombardment of often-conflicting information can be overwhelming for adults, so imagine how scary it can appear to children. By providing them with limited but factual information, we are setting our children up with a healthy emotional environment in which they can process this situation.
- Provide Action Items: Kids thrive when they can be active and do something meaningful. Discuss with your children the steps they can take to remain healthy, both physically and emotionally.
- Physical health: Review with them the importance of washing their hands often, staying away from those who are not feeling well, and practicing good respiratory hygiene (such as coughing or sneezing into your elbow). Explain the concept of “social distancing” to kids through the lens of “Consideration of Others.” Encourage your children to get outside and be active every day (with a six-foot distance from others!).
- Community-building: Brainstorm with your child ways they can support others from afar, such as video conferencing with relatives, writing letters to friends, or adopting a neighbor in need of help.
- Stay Connected: As a family, discuss ways that you can stay connected to your greater community. Encourage video chats, texting, or letter-writing with friends and family to keep your children from feeling isolated from their typical support system. This is especially important for our older students, who naturally need to feel as though they are valued members of a larger friend community. Whatever the medium, now more than ever, it is important that we all feel connected to one another and our wider community.
- Create a Safe Space: Sometimes all a child needs is someone to talk to. Instead of waiting for them to bring the issue to you, start a conversation on the topic and allow them to direct where it goes from there. Children often want to talk through their anxieties and need a safe space in which to do so. They look to the adults in their lives for a model of how to deal with these stressors. Remind them that it is okay for them to feel sad, scared, or stressed and that crying or needing a break when overwhelmed are typical ways of dealing with difficult emotions.
- Emotional health: Try meditation or yoga as a way to calm the mind during these chaotic times. YouTube and Cosmic Kids Yoga offer a wide variety of guided meditation and yoga sessions for the whole family. The Headspace and Calm apps both give subscribers access to relaxation techniques, guided meditations, and sleep prompts.
- Keep Things Light: As adults, we are deeply affected by the severity of this situation. This has an impact on how we interact with each other and our children. Because children are always watching us and our reactions, try to keep conversations in the presence of children as light as possible. Engage in family activities that you typically enjoy and do your best to find joy in the time you are spending together. Modeling emotional consistency and resilience at home will have a great impact on how children respond to these challenges now, as well as how they move forward when things return to normal.