The news can be scary for grownups. But for children, who may struggle to understand what’s happening, it can be terrifying. They’re hearing about death counts and quarantines. Their routines, interactions, and schedules may be in chaos. But honesty and information management on the part of parents can help kids maintain a sense of safety and security in uncertain times.
“When we can talk about our feelings, they become less overwhelming, less upsetting and less scary.” – Mister Rogers
Around here, we’re not shy when it comes to talking about death. But there’s a time and place for everything. And this is the time for calm – for being your child’s rock. These 5 tips will help you manage this like a pro (even if you’re panicking on the inside).
1. Keep it together. Self-care is important in times of crisis. If you need to panic, cry, vent, whatever – you do you. But it’s smart to wait until younger children have gone to bed. Maybe take a moment to collect yourself in the shower. Or close your bedroom door and call your own parent for reassurance. Children will feed off a parent’s energy. And if you can remain level-headed, your family is more likely to follow suit.
While the chances are incredibly high that you and your family will be just fine, there are moves you can make to find some reassurance in uncertain times. If you haven’t already, particularly as a parent, make sure you have an up-to-date will. This is easy to complete online and can be done before you go to bed tonight. Similarly, you can apply for a life insurance policy entirely online, and know that if anything were to happen, your family would have some financial resiliency.
2. Maintain as much routine as is possible. School cancellations don’t mean you need to abandon bedtimes. Or learning for that matter. Consider downloading homeschool curriculum or browsing Pinterest for educational play activities. If you work out every morning or participate in a hobby, keep it up. Maintain a sense of normalcy.
3. Approach the subject with your kids. Don’t wait to find out you child is stressed or worried. They may be harboring fears they don’t know how to articulate. Ask what they’ve heard, quash any rumors and arm them with age-appropriate facts. Be sure to validate their concerns. Let them know you hear their fears and what you’re doing to address them.
4. Model good hygiene. This is a big one for younger children. It’s more important than ever to push them to wash their hands upon returning home, after using the bathroom and before meals. If you can score some, try children’s soap pumps with fun characters or colored soaps. Make hand washing and cleaning surfaces a part of your routine, and do them together as a family. Sing songs while you do them and provide positive reinforcement after.
5. Turn off the TV. Bake cookies, read books or invent a game with last summer’s pool noodles. Whatever you can find to do that isn’t sitting in front of the 24-hour news channels will dramatically change the mood in your home. For many children and adults, the news may exacerbate anxieties.
Depending on the age and maturity of your children, you’ll want to have different conversations with them, but all children should know you have a plan to protect them. They’re looking to you to understand a flood of information, and it’s important to be honest about what you do and don’t know. Share facts, not rumors. With teens, stress the importance of checking your sources before spreading misinformation. And with pre-schoolers and elementary schoolers, stress the importance of talking about fears and feelings.
Above all, remember that we’re all pandemic newbies. If you’re present for your child and their feelings, you’re doing your job.
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