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Friday, July 31, 2020

7 Tips for Handling Your Children's Questions About Coronavirus

Photo by 5688709 (lenahelfinger)

Every generation has some sort of cultural crisis or touchstone that defines their childhoods. September 11th, the Challenger Explosion, the assassination of President Kennedy, and the attack on Pearl Harbor were defining events for previous generations. For this generation? It's certainly going to be COVID-19. It's impacted every part of their lives. Since the beginning of the year, the way children go to school, see their extended family, or even play with their friends have changed dramatically. Naturally, they have questions about what's going on. Here's some helpful hints to answering their questions in an age-appropriate manner that won't add to their anxiety.

1. Offer comfort and honesty. Only answer the specific questions they have. There is no need to provide more scary information than they asked for.

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Listen for what your kids are actually asking you. If it's why they might not be able to start back to school on time, an age appropriate answer will include real concerns about gathering that many children and adults in one place. However, you probably don't need to go into the fact that cases are skyrocketing and ICUs are nearing capacity in many areas of the country.

2. Speak in calm, reassuring tones.

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Children are very attuned to the tone of voice and body language of the adults in their lives. Talking about Covid is difficult for everyone, and sometimes it is hard not to let your emotions show. Take a breath, and stay calm as you talk to kids. There's not a lot of certainty in this situation, so kids need the reassurance that the adults they depend on are still in control.

3. Reassure your children that kids do not get as sick as grown-ups do.

Photo by 5688709 (ddimitrova)

Children don't seem to be hit as hard with the virus as adults are. Let your kids know that! Children who understand that Covid is serious but isn't necessarily deadly or painful are in a better position to avoid long term anxiety about the disease, or illness in general.

4. Give children specific actions that can help them feel in control, such a washing their hands and getting plenty of sleep.

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A sense of control helps everyone cope with uncertain situations. And following the rules about masks, hand washing, and social distancing not only gives us all the feeling of control but helps protect us and our community from the unchecked spread of the disease. So emphasize healthy habits! Plus, a good diet and lots of sleep are two very healthy ways to deal with stress. Another great way is to exercise. Set them loose on playground equipment and let them burn off energy!

5. Embrace your new routine.

Photo by 5688709 (ddimitrova)

Everyone's lives have changed, and that includes your children's. Help them embrace it. It might require setting up new schedules. Getting up, chores, reading, homework, exercise, and screentime all still need a role in our lives. It might also be worthwhile to consider how your home functions for a family where members are home all day. Changing the function of a room or two or reworking spaces to provide quiet places to work can make a huge difference. A backyard that gives your kids a space for play and exercise is a huge benefit. Contact outdoor play equipment companies and stores for ideas!

6. Keep the conversation going.

Photo by 5688709 (ddimitrova)

Talking about Covid isn't going to be a one and done experience. Recommendations from experts, how the disease is transmitting across the country, and decisions by local governments about parks, schools, and businesses change rapidly. It's important to keep your kids informed about information they really need-like about school reopening, or the fact that you can now grab to go orders from your local restaurant-while filtering out information they don't. Being open to questions will help your kids cope and trust you are telling them what they need to know.

7. Work through your own anxiety.

Photo by 5688709 (leninscape)

Your anxiety level can definitely impact your kids' reactions to our new reality. Work through your anxiety about Covid (and everything associated it with it) before talking with them. Try an online yoga class, express your frustrations in a group text with your best friends, or go outside and run your feelings out. Just show your kids the calmest parent possible!

Find more about the author: Kim Hart

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