"Each day of our lives we make deposits in the memory bank of our children."
-Charles R. Swindoll
"How do we explain the Coronavirus to our kids?"
"What do I say to my three your old when she asks why she can't go to her Grandma's house?"
"Besides balancing working from home, running the house, my own stress, how do I help my kids not think this is a big giant vacation?"
What do I say to my five year old when she asks how long we will be in our house and not at school?
Any of the above sound familiar? We want to answer our children, be honest, and protect them all at the same time. Here are a couple of thoughts:
Keeping your child in the dark can create more worry.
Jamie Howard, PhD, a child psychologist at the Child Mind Institute, notes, “Kids feel empowered when they know what to do to keep themselves safe.” Depending on the age of the child the answer may be different. Preschoolers are egocentric and have a great imagination. Too much information can put them on overload. Your job as parents is to keep them safe. Let them know that this virus spreads through coughing and touching surfaces. Point out all the things you are doing and they are doing to stay safe. Remind kids that they are taking care of themselves by washing their hands with soap and water for 20 seconds (or the length of two “Happy Birthday” songs) when they come in from outside, before they eat, and after blowing their nose, coughing, sneezing or using the bathroom. If kids see people wearing face masks, explain that those people are being extra cautious.
Deal with your own anxiety first.
Put yourself in check before answering questions. When your child asks about not being able to see grandparents you can acknowledge the missing feelings and that they miss hugging and kissing your child as well. Acknowledge that it does seem like a long time but it won’t be forever. If you FaceTime then everybody can stay healthy.
Answering: “I don’t know,” is not a bad thing but don’t stop there.
Keep the lines of communication open even if the first opportunity is answered by “I don’t know. Reassuring your child that you are staying informed and when you do get the answer to a question you will let them know. “Remember you asked me about going back to school, I found out…”
Maintaining predictable boundaries and routines helps everybody manage their anxiety.
Children thrive when they have boundaries and routines. It makes them feel safe. It makes them feel self- regulated. Parents this may mean that you need to be more present and have more follow through. You will reap the benefits.
Please remember that I am here for you during this time. Do not hesitate to reach out with any questions.