It’s no secret that we are living during unprecedented times. With the world in an ever-changing spiral due to COVID-19, emotions and moods can change by the day. When routines are flipped upside down and traumatic experiences are being felt left and right, the impact on our children’s mental load can be harmful. It is important to understand how to talk to your children about COVID-19, understand how this time can affect their thoughts and feelings, and learn how to help them through this experience. As parents, we can ease the mental unease our children are feeling and give them a sense of normalcy and peace amongst the chaos.
Talk to Them
Discussing the current state of the world with children is important. You want the information they know about COVID-19 to come directly from you rather than hear-say. Explain what COVID-19 is, why we are socially distancing, and be open to discuss what hopeful plans we can think of for the future. Talk through whatever emotions they are feeling. During these times they are looking to parents as a source of comfort and security. Avoiding the discussion around COVID-19 can have negative effects including increased levels of fear, anxiety, and depression so speak up!
Encourage Socializing at a Distance
Children miss the daily interaction they were having in the classroom. They miss their friends, other family members, lunchtime chatter, and end-of-day goodbyes. Encourage them to stay connected to those they love often. Schedule video chats with their friends. Let them call a family member daily if it boosts their mood. Draw pictures and write letters with them and leave them in the neighbor’s mailbox to brighten their day. Do a drive-by visit to a close friend just to say “hi.” Keeping kids engaged to people they feel happy with is vital to their mental health.
Limit Media Exposure
As adults, the latest breaking news can stress us out, so imagine what it could do to growing minds. Avoid allowing your children to tune into the news for long periods of time. This type of exposure could increase anxiety and depression. Be aware of the news they are watching and reading and discuss it with them afterward to talk through any worries or feelings they are experiencing.
Empower Your Kids
When sharing news about how COVID-19 is affecting your community (or the country) also talk about ways that you, as a family, can help others in need. Share some ideas on how to give back, such as creating masks for frontline workers, donating to a food bank or buying groceries for a neighbor in need. Allow your children to choose what they want to participate in and give them the power to give back. This will boost their mood and give them a sense of responsibility.
Share Your Feelings
Empathize with your child. Encourage them to share their feelings with you, but also be open with them about how you feel. Share coping mechanisms that you use that could be helpful to get them through icky feelings too. If you practice yoga when you’re feeling stressed, maybe they will join you next time they feel that way too.
As we learn to navigate our own feelings during this pandemic, it is important to understand how it is affecting our children as well. Be open to discussing feelings on a daily basis, avoid long-exposure to the news, and find ways to create normal moments through the chaos.