A couple of days ago I asked a patient of mine what she knew about corona virus. She looked up at me and said, “Someone coughs, sick and they die. That TV told me.” Lara is four and a half years old.
As the Corona virus continues to spread throughout the world we are seeing an increase in alarming messages on social media and in the news. We see these posts and articles and we begin to panic and worry. Our children are also being exposed to these panic inducing messages and can tell when you're stressed. It is our job as parents to keep our children safe, but it is also our job to help them understand the world around them.
1. Try to start a conversation. We should be talking to our children on a daily basis to find out what they know about COVID-19, but I say try because they may not want to talk about it. Tap into your child’s feelings during this confusing time and see what’s on their mind. Ask if they understand the situation and how they feel about it. Make sure to only continue the conversation if they want to have it. Some kids may want to talk and some won’t and that’s OK.
2. Keep up to date. Give them space to share their fears and update them regularly with advancements in successful initiatives taken against COVID-19. Watch out for positive articles in the news and share them with the family to ease fears and concerns. In Lara’s case I explained that not everyone dies and tell her about all the new recovery cases around us. I let her know how quarantine and other safety measures are being taken to stop the virus.
3. Share information carefully. Your kids may begin to ask why they aren’t going to school or why they have to stay home? Answer their questions honestly, but don’t dive into details they aren’t asking about. If a topic comes up, address it, but don’t answer with details that might pose more questions or confusion. If they ask a question you don’t know the answer to be honest and let them know you don’t know. It sets a good stage for you to do some research together to help ease both your minds.
4. Speak calmly and show how they can help with the situation. Kids easily pick up on when their parents are worried. If you stay calm your children will stay calm. Always speak with a calm voice and don’t let them see you worrying or talking about it with others on the phone.Do all you can to quarantine and don’t worry about what is not in your control.Show your children how to fight off the disease by washing their hands thoroughly and be a good role model by washing your hands with them.
A simple experiment I saw online was an excellent way to explain the virus to younger children in a fun way. Sprinkle some pepper in a plastic plate with water. Explain the corona virus is like the pepper and when you add soap you can do demonstrate how the pepper runs away.
5. Talk to family. In times like this children tend to worry more about friends and family than themselves. Make sure to video call with grandparents and other relatives regularly to show your kids that everything is OK. Let them keep in touch with friends and try to make life as close to normal as possible.
6. Ongoing Conversations. Finally, keep track of your child’s emotions towards the situation. This is not a one time conversation and we are all bound to be confused until this all settles. Make sure to follow up with your children and keep track of their awareness of the situation. You may even use this time to educate children more on their bodies’ and immune systems’.
It’s important to help kids think through everything they are hearing around them. Ask them questions about how they think this is happening and start conversations that are educational beyond what they hear in the news.