The current circumstances we’re dealing with are unknown, unsettling, and unpredictable. While adults may be more aware of the details, children remain only aware that their daily world is different. Here are some tips for talking to your children about Covid-19.
- First, if you have a custody arrangement where your children are not always with you, it is important that both parents (or guardians) try to stay on the same page. As will be discussed further, having a routine can help children feel that they have some control. If possible, talk to the other parent about integrating similar routines in each household. Not only will the routines help your children feel more comfortable, seeing both parents implement similar actions plans may make the children feel safer. Every tip listed below can be used in both households to keep a sense of unity and consistency for the children.
- Speaking of routines, many children are not in school right now. The routines that they are used to are completely different. Losing that sense of stability can make children feel uneasy. Keep normal routines, like meal times, chores, bedtimes and create new ones to fill the new unstructured time children have. Structure can help children because they can predict what’s going to happen and feel more in control.
- Allowing your children to feel empowered and in control will help them feel grounded in these uncertain times. A good way to do this is by giving your children specific tasks to do related to staying healthy. Be sure to explain why the tasks are necessary so your children can feel like they can make a difference in their own lives. Teach them the correct way to wash their hands and remind them that staying clean helps prevent the spread of the disease. Further, explain the importance of getting a good night’s sleep as it relates to staying healthy. You can also incorporate sanitizing into a daily task, which gives your children both routine and some control. By giving your children tools to stay healthy, they will feel as though they have some power in very unique circumstances.
- Be honest with your children, but be sure it’s age appropriate. The information you can share with your 12-year-old is different than the information you should share with your 4-year-old. You want to be honest with your children, but not overshare information that they may not be able to process. For younger children, you may want to limit the news they see. It is not necessary to overwhelm them with news. If one of your children hears something too intense for them, remind them that they are is doing everything they are is supposed to do to stay safe.
- Help ensure that your children are still getting to socialize with their friends. Older and teenaged children are likely to understand the magnitude of the situation more than their younger counterparts. They are also more likely to worry about others. Facilitate virtual connections with others. If you have time limits on computer, phone or cell phone time, it may be appropriate to loosen those rules a bit. Your children are missing out on the social experiences that many rely on. Let them get a bit of that virtually.
Lastly, validate your children’s feelings. At times, your children may feel especially stressed out. Every parent wants their children to be happy, but it’s normal to be emotional during a scary time. Acknowledge that it’s normal and let your child feel their emotion. Then, remind them that stress will pass and things will go back to normal.