by Paula Shelton, Contributing Writer
Every day, the public is inundated with so much information concerning COVID-19, it may be difficult to take it all in. Our children are facing an even tougher battle with the closure of schools and social distancing, bringing life as they know it to a halt. It is now more important than ever that we keep the lines of communication open. Our children need to feel safe and kept in the know as our nation faces this pandemic. As a parent or caregiver, it can be challenging to know what information to share with your children and how to decipher the information they may already have.
While this is a scary situation for parents and caregivers, Jamie Howard Ph.D., Director of Trauma and Resilience Service for the Child Mind Institute notes “Most children have already heard about the virus, or have seen people wearing masks so they know something is up and you should not be afraid to talk to them about it.” Avoiding the topic may do more harm than good and cause children to become anxious and concerned. “Not talking about the coronavirus can be worse because kids can worry more if they think you’re avoiding talking to them.” continued Dr.Howard.
Experts suggest parents and caregivers start by asking what they already know. A simple question such as “What have you heard about the coronavirus?” is an excellent way to start the conversation. Parents should provide children with factual information while still making them feel safe. Look at the conversation as an opportunity to dispel any misinformation they may have heard from friends, and clear up any confusing information they may have heard on the news.
Tracy Sostand, a parent of two 14-year olds and an educator for Chicago Public Schools, suggests, “Make sure that you remain calm around them, allow them to ask questions and exercise patience.” You may not have the answers to all of their questions but assure them that when you do, you will share the information with them.
It is also important that you keep your child’s age in mind and don’t offer more information than they ask for. The CDC states that you should give children information that is truthful and appropriate for the age and developmental level of the child. LaTeka Hallom, a mother of three ranging in ages from 2 to 9, said talking to her children about the coronavirus varies due to their age. “I explain it to the 9-year-old as questions come up,” while Tracy says that since her children are 14, she hasn’t had to explain anything to them. Here are some links to videos that can help explain the coronavirus to your children.
Next, reassure children and let them know what you can do as a family to stay safe. Teach your children the proper way of washing their hands for 20 seconds and how to cover their mouths when they cough or sneeze correctly. Practice these routines together and model the behavior in front of them regularly. Dr. Jamie Howard states, “Kids feel empowered when they know what to do to keep themselves safe.” Let your child know you are there to answer any questions they have.
Lastly, provide children with a daily routine to keep them engaged and give them a sense of normalcy. Mother of three, LaTeka Hallom, keeps her 9-year old on a schedule similar to her school that includes 30 minutes of reading each day. “She also does activities with her younger siblings such as shapes and colors,” adds Mrs. Hallom. Educator and mother Tracy Sostand suggest that parents, “pace the lessons, use paper books as well as technology and be creative. Maybe allow them to help cook meals and exercise regularly with them.”
For more information on talking to your children about the coronavirus, please click on the links below.