With the unavoidable topic on everyone’s mind affecting our work, schools and homes, how do we translate what is going on to support our children’s understanding of the world? There may be parents out there who are very honest with their children, and others who would prefer to keep them in the dark as a preventative measure to anxiety. Nobody understand your child like you, but if you are stuck for words the Child Mind Institute has offered the following advice:
Don’t fear the conversation.
Your child most likely will already have heard about what is going on. They may have seen things on the television, or perhaps seen first hand people taking cautionary measures. We’ve all seen the facemasks right? By avoiding the subject you may be sending mixed messages to your child which could cause more confusion! You can look at the conversation as an opportunity to convey the real information- the facts. Help your child feel informed by setting the emotional tone, and try to serve as a role model by continuing that reassuring tone into other parts of your day.
Pitch your conversation by age and maturity.
The best place to start is by answering the questions your child has! It’s also a good measure to find out how much they know, or they think they know. That way you can tailor appropriate information to your child. It’s fine if you don’t have all the answers either, and you can tell your child that, but it is important that you open the gateway for conversation and let them know you’re there for them.
Manage your own anxiety about this.
Don’t start a conversation with your child when you’re feeling a lot of anxiety yourself. If you notice you’re anxiety has spiked, take some time out to breathe and calm before having that conversation with them. It’s also part of your role to squash any unrealistic frightening fantasies you or your child may have. Stay rational with yourself – it’s easy to get caught up in fear mongering fake news.
Children live very much in their own bubble, and if they think the coronavirus is going to reach them (and their bubble) this can be very upsetting for them. Take some time each day to reassure your child that things are going to be ok – but don’t do this too much that they notice a change in your behaviour. It’s nice to distract them with other positive things going on in the world – and hey, this can’t hurt you either right? Also recognise that any cold-type symptoms they have is normal for this time of year.
Empower your child.
Whilst it’s important to reassure kids, it is also really helpful to empower them! Teach them how to look after their health; wash hands with them, and praise them when they are doing well. The same goes for coughing and sneezing into tissues or the inside of your elbow, rather than hands.
Stick to routine.
Structured days with regular mealtimes and bedtimes are an essential part of keeping kids happy and healthy. This will be difficult in the case of home learning, but keeping some certainty in a time like this will go a long way to helping your child.