It’s safe to say that, throughout the world, the coronavirus is the subject that is foremost on everyone’s mind. From Intertops casino bonus players in Hong Kong to scuba divers in Hawaii, regardless of your background, interests, financial situation or social standing, fascination and worry about what the coronavirus is doing in the world has become an all-consuming obsession.
It’s reasonable to expect that, even if you try to keep concerns about the pandemic from your kids, they’ll hear things and wonder. Coronavirus is the first item on everyone’s newsfeed every night. The kids know that it’s the reason that they can’t play with their mates, the cause of school and playgroup cancellations and the motivation behind almost everything that’s happening in today’s society, everywhere in the world.
If you think that your kids are unaware of the situation, you’re wrong. There’s almost no way to isolate your children enough to protect them from any knowledge of what’s happening. If you think that the correct way to approach this subject is to stay quiet, you’re risking your kids’ emotional health. You’ll be doing more harm than good.
You don’t need to spell out the gory details when you speak to young children. There’s no reason to discuss the scary symptoms of the disease, the damage that it can do to the body, the death rate, worries about the collapse of the medical system or any other horrors that may keep you awake at night. Young children can’t really process that kind of information. But it’s important to create an environment of open and honest communication so that your children know that they can come to you with their questions and their worries.
More psychological damage is done when worries, concerns, questions and anxieties are left unspoken. Open up discussions and let your kids know that you’re there to answer their questions. The answers may not always be calming. But if your children know that you’re an honest source of information, it will give them the strength that they need to get through this era.
During this era of pandemic, we must stay aware of what our children might be experiencing. Children as young as three know that “something’s wrong” but if they don’t have access to an explanation that puts the situation into a frame that they can understand it can cause feelings of anger, sadness, irritability, frustration and depression. If those feelings aren’t addressed, the child may experience long-term emotional consequences.
The first thing that you want is for your child to know, without a shadow of a doubt, that you can provide them with honest information. They need someone that they can trust during this period of uncertainty and that someone must be their parent. So tell them – there’s a virus, and in order to keep more people from getting sick, everyone has to take precautions. We can’t meet with too many other people, can’t go out as much as we would like, must wash our hands more, etc.
It helps children to know that there’s something that they can DO. Give them action items – meet with grandma and grandpa online, wash your hands, wear a mask, don’t hug, keep a distance from others, etc. It’s also important to pay attention to signs that your child is stressed or anxious. If you see that your child is becoming withdrawn, is more argumentative, is sleeping more or isn’t interacting well with other family members, consider reaching out to a mental health care provider that specializes in pediatric mental health for a consultation. Many communities have set up free mental health phone lines where you can call for advice.
What to Say?
In speaking to your child about the coronavirus pandemic, you want to strike a balance between providing accurate information and fueling the child’s anxiety. Children have active imaginations. If you create an atmosphere in which the child’s imagination is left to run wild – either by talking about the situation too much or too little — you may find that s/he is building up worst-case scenarios in his/her mind.
How do you strike the balance? Think about what the child needs to know. At age 3, s/he probably just needs to know why s/he isn’t going to pre-school, so you just might want to say something like “there’s a virus and we need to stay home so that we don’t get sick.” By age 6, you can elaborate a bit more – “there are a lot of germs in the air, and they’ve found that fewer people get sick if we stay home for awhile, so that’s what we’re doing.”
You can be guided by your child’s questions. Some kids might be complacent with just the bare minimum of information while others, especially those who have family members who have been sickened by the coronavirus, may have more questions. The important thing is to let your child know that you are a reliable source for honest information and that you’re there to talk about any issues that they may wish to raise.
Some common questions that children might raise, and answers that will help calm their worries, include:
- What is coronavirus?
- Coronavirus is a new kind of flu. Since it’s new, scientists haven’t come up with good treatments or ways to prevent it yet, though they’re working on it and hopefully, very soon, they will. In the meantime, we have to do whatever we can to keep it from spreading.
- Can I catch the coronavirus?
- The virus spreads like the flu. If someone has the coronavirus and they sneeze or cough, their germs are sneeze or coughed into the air and anyone who those germs touch can get sick. Germs can also pass by touch. So if you touched a door handle that someone who had the coronavirus touched, and then you put your hand near your mouth or eyes, the germs can get into your body. That’s why we wash our hands a lot and even wear gloves when we go out.
- Can we do anything to keep from getting sick?
- In addition to trying not to get too close to people, we should try to wear a mask every time we go out so that we don’t breath in anyone else’s germs.
Young children especially seek reassurance by asking the same question repeatedly. Often, that’s their way of coping with anxiety due to the unknown. In many ways, that’s how adults cope – checking the news feed multiple times a day, talking with friends and family about what’s happening, etc.
Patience and understanding will be the key to helping our children get through this point in our history.