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Hi, my name is Hayley Bergen and I’m a Licensed Mental Health Counselor at Thriveworks. I was recently asked the question of how to talk to our children about coronavirus concerns.
I think this is a great question to explore as many people continue to experience anxiety and uncertainty as we listen to news updates, rising community concerns and changes and question even how long exactly is all this gonna go on for. In the meantime, our children are also going through lots of routine changes as they aren’t going to school, they’re missing birthday parties, extracurricular activities, play dates, and all those connections that they were so bonded with, whether it was with their teachers, their coaches, their friends and other family members, babysitters.
So as these things do change our lives every day within the community, it’s important that we support our children the best we can to help them understand the what’s and why’s. Our children’s brains are still forming. So they’re still working on processing ideas, emotions, events. So figuring out how to explain to them what a pandemic is is it’s such a large idea and wanting to make sure that we are not creating more fear or sadness or confusion. It’s difficult to say when we have these difficult conversations with our kids.
I think that breaking down the basics of human safety right now are important for children to understand, especially as they have become societal norms for us at this time. For example, we want them to know that yes, there is a virus in our world called the Coronavirus that is spread through bad germs from person to person and it’s very easy to catch. You might not feel sick right away. So that’s why we have to be super careful to stay home ourselves as well as those that are sick so that we cannot protect each other and get healthy again.
Mostly people that are sick are the ones that stay home to get well. And when they start to feel worse, they go to a doctor or a hospital, which is why a lot of people are seeking out going to hospitals and doctors right now. To help us not get sick, that means we also have to be really careful and also look out for our friends and family so they stay healthy. Reminder: role modeling for children is always important but more so right now so that we can help create a sense of safety and routine together at home.
For example, making sure they understand the importance of washing their hands and good hygiene. We wash our hands after we go to the bathroom after we go outside or run an errand. If we’re going to cough or sneeze, we cover our mouths and move away from people. And even the process of wearing gloves and masks to further protect ourselves may be part of the conversation for you as well.
It is inevitable for our children to feel upset or confused that they can’t continue to be their wonderful, social, playful, selves right now. Providing comfort and safety for them is really important. Be creative with your indoor and outdoor games, have contests, create new games. Introduce them to our virtual world of Zoom and Meet and FaceTime to keep those social connections.
Whether it’s they’re taking a class online, a dance class maybe, you know, they definitely need the virtual classrooms right now to stay connected with their teachers and the other students. Reintroduce them to good old fashioned mail. Have them and their friends become pen pals and write each other back and forth. It gives them something to look forward to. It still holds a sense of curiosity for them and another activity for you two, to engage with each other every week.
Continuing to support them in their routines, their positive interactions and maintaining their social connections is not only important for their mental health, but ours as well.
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