Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and changes in the structure of our society, children are experiencing a big shift in their routines and opportunities. Kids are hearing about this virus and the implications daily but likely don’t fully understand what it means. By using developmentally appropriate language, you can create a discussion that gives your child an understanding of it, alleviate concerns, and help them cope with the sudden changes being experienced.
Tips for starting the conversation
Open with a question to gauge what your child knows/feels/thinks
“What do you think COVID-19 is?” How do you feel about staying home and learning” or “why do you think mommy is staying home with you?”
Give your child some basic definitions without going too in-depth.
COVID-19: COVID-19 is a virus that makes your body sick “remember when you didn’t feel well and had to take medicine.” A virus is so tiny you can’t see it that’s why it’s so important to wash your hands a lot! The reason why everyone is talking about this virus is because it’s new and doctors haven’t seen it before. They’re learning a lot about it and trying to figure out how to keep people safe.
Depending on your child’s age, you may want to discontinue their access to news and social media regarding COVID-19. You should also teach your child that there are conflicting resources about the virus and some of it may not be true. As an adult, you should rely on reliable sources like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the World Health Organization, state health departments, and school district communication. Be aware of your child’s presence when listening to the news. Although they may not appear to be watching it, they might be listening and internalizing the information.
Helping Your Child Adjust:
Young and old children might not understand why play dates, activities, and vacations are being cancelled and might feel as if they did something wrong. Remind them that the reason you’re staying home is to help stay healthy and prevent the spread of COVID-19. To help counter the negative emotions associated with this, create a to-do list for your child once it’s safe. You can make collages, create a calendar, bucket list, or look at pictures of activities online to redirect the attention to something positive. You can also engage in fun activities outside like water play, creating obstacle courses, picnics, and painting scenic portraits from your view.
Create a new routine for your family:
Establishing and maintaining routines can help kids predict what’s planned and feel a sense of control in situations. Use a white board or paper to display a calendar. If your child is younger, you can use pictures or drawings to help your child know what’s going on. Explain that staying home is important to prevent the spread of the virus. Identifying clear expectations for the day will help kids feel supported and encourage them to feel accomplished while also easing the stress of the unknown. When making a schedule, include wake-up, bedtime, meals, school, learning, outdoor time, and household responsibilities to fill the day.
Connecting with Others:
If your child is upset by not being able to spend time with friends and family members, you can help them connect by making phone calls, using FaceTime or similar video chat apps. You can create virtual play dates, play games with those in the household, and establish fun family nights at home. These can include: movie night, cooking night and game night. Encourage your children to express themselves artistically by drawing pictures and writing letters to others. In addition, your child can parallel play during virtual play dates. Chat with a friend and play with blocks- “let’s see who can build a monster the fastest” and other competitions will help make it engaging.
If your child is sick or someone close is, ease their concerns by reassuring them that medicine and treatments are available. Explain what happens when someone is sick and things we can do to help make it better. You can remind your child of a time they were scared of something and how they overcame it. For example, you can say “I know you’re scared because you’re feeling sick, but let’s look at some times when you’ve been scared but made it through it stronger! When you learned to ride a bike without training wheels, you were really scared at first! We took them off and you didn’t want to ride it. But then we held the seat for the first few minutes and then you were ready for us to let you go on your own! You rode the bike without the training wheels and without us holding you! You faced the fear and realized it wasn’t so scary!”
We hope these tips have been helpful at navigating uncharted territories. If you have any other suggestions, let us know!
Stay healthy and happy.