Building Resilience: Keep Calm and Talk Coronavirus
Keep Calm and Talk Coronavirus
Your children might ask questions about what’s happening, they might make up their own stories about what they think is going on, and very young children may just pick up on changes in the family routine and not understand why things are different. It’s best if they hear information about coronavirus directly from you!
Take into consideration your child’s developmental and language level when offering to start a conversation with them. Start by asking what they’ve heard about coronavirus or COVID-19. Listen to what they have to say. If they express something that’s inaccurate, correct it in a simple, age-appropriate way. Ask what questions they might have. This source for “Helper Heroes” has some guidance for talking to children, especially for those parents and caregivers who are still working in helping capacities (e.g., cashiers in grocery stores, medical staff, delivery-persons) or who have to separate from their children for a while for safety reasons. Some of the basic suggestions include letting children know that: doctors are learning more about this every day; most people who get sick get better; this won’t last forever; and there are lots of things we can do to protect ourselves – like washing our hands and staying home. Respond to their questions with brief, simple answers that don’t give more details than they need to know.
Be empathetic to your child’s feelings and worries and reassure them that you are doing your very best to keep them safe and well. You know your child’s temperament better than anyone else, so also let that guide you – you don’t need to force your child to have a long conversation or ask you questions if that doesn’t suit them. You can open the door to a conversation and read their cues about how much or little they need to talk about it.
It’s more than what you say, of course, because children are very perceptive! They are quick to pick up on parents and caregivers’ anxiety and fear, and they take cues from you about how to react. Try to keep a calm, reassuring tone when discussing the pandemic. Be mindful of not only what you say around your children but also how you say it. Kids are excellent at reading your tone and facial expressions. This is especially true for younger kids. If your child is worried about you, convey hope and confidence as much as you can without making promises that you may not be able to keep. So, you might tell your child that you are working very hard to keep away germs and stay safe.
Children’s concerns can vary based on their developmental age. Infants and toddlers will react primarily to your mood and behavior. At three or four years of age, your child may be curious about why people are wearing masks or why they no longer see their grandparents frequently. For help answering their questions in a simple way, visit the Zero to Three website.
School age children understand better when we use clear, simple language when talking to them. Check in with your own emotional state before talking to them about their worries. Take a minute to breathe before you answer their questions so you can maintain a neutral tone. Avoid giving more information than they are requesting. Scholastics has excellent resources to explain Coronavirus based on a child’s age. Read this article for kids in Pre-K to 3rd grade or this article for kids in 4th-6th grade. For more tips on how to ask questions to kids about Coronavirus, visit the National Child Traumatic Stress Network or the Child-Mind Institute.
Note: Mental health is always important, but during times of crisis it is paramount. The following guidelines are designed to support you in finding ways to cope, understanding how to practice self-care, and nurturing your connection with your child. Building Resilience: Parenting During a Pandemic is a joint effort between Louisiana Children's Museum and Tulane Institute of Infant and Early Childhood Mental Health.
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