April 8, 2020
Starting the Conversation:
If you have not talked to your children about COVID-19 yet, now is the time to do so. Given how global this pandemic has gotten, it is likely that they have some knowledge already about the virus. The first step in talking to your children is asking them what they already know and what they have heard about the virus. Then, ask them how they are feeling and if they have any questions. It is important to answer these questions with basic information and not too much detail. Let their questions guide the conversation and don’t try to cover everything in one conversation. Keep the door open for them to ask questions as they think of them.
It is hard for children, and even adults, to fully understand the medical side of the illness. Children may have received misinformation (they were told incorrect information) or have misconceptions (they were told correct information but have interpreted it incorrectly.) To identify these, when asking your children what they have learned to be sure to ask your children to explain what it means. This will help you determine what they truly understand and what additional information they may need.
Avoid using fear to get your children to follow your recommendations. This will only cause more anxiety. Also, be cautious of using examples in the past or trying to reassure them that this situation could be worse. This will likely make them think it will get worse. Be sure to ask your children’s fears and skepticism’s, children often have different fears and worries than adults. You can’t reassure your children if you do not know what they are afraid of. Otherwise, you are not reassuring them, but telling them why you aren’t worried.
Do not pretend that everything is okay. Children can pick up when adults are not genuine and honest. Be sure to provide appropriate assurance but don’t provide false reassurance. Rather than telling them to “Don’t be worried,” instead, help them learn to deal with the uncertainty and fear.
Tell them What’s Being Done to Keep Them Safe:
This lockdown and the inability to participate in their old activities can be very stressful on children. I addition if they see their friends not following social distancing rules they may become jealous or see it as unfair and ask questions. It is important to stand firm in your rules and tell them why it is important.
Establish a Routine:
Establish a routine to restore a sense of predictability. For children on the autism spectrum, this is particularly important, as well as children who were anxious or depressed before this pandemic. Reach out to your mental health/pediatric health providers for advice and assistance.
Dealing with distress:
Remember to take care of yourself:
As adults we will likely have concerns about our health and those of family/friends, don’t feel the need to only focus on your children’s. When children are highly stressed they may become more demanding, regress socially with their friends and peers, act less mature, etc this is because they are overwhelmed with their concerns and have to cope with that before thinking of others. Adults may act this way as well. While the crisis brings out the best in people, it can also bring out a lot of stress, and we likely won’t be at our best all the time. It is important to remember to be patient with children, other adults, and yourself.
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