COVID-19 (often referred to as “coronavirus”) is clearly top of mind for all of us—moms, dads, and, as a result, kids. Even the littlest ears pick up things, and small kids can feel our anxiety as well as notice our actions. Bigger kids and teens, of course, are getting even more information from a variety of sources (some reliable, some not)—online, friends and sometimes, in school briefings about preparations for possible closures. We can’t completely shield our families from talk about coronavirus, but we can try to minimize any extra stress it places on our kids. We spoke to The Local Moms Network contributor, Caitlyn Dunn, LCSW, about what we should all know. Here are her best 5 tips:
While this is a scary situation and you have a right to be stressed, letting that take control isn’t helping anyone. “When we’re stressed, the immune system’s ability to fight off foreign substances (like a virus) is reduced. The stress hormone (corticosteroid) can suppress the effectiveness of the immune system,” says Caitlyn. This relates to not only what you say, but what you do. “Stockpiling items like it’s Armageddon, is probably not the best move in front of your children. Talking on the phone to your friends about how scared you are, again, probably not the best idea in front of your children,” says Caitlyn.
Find Age Appropriate Ways to Communicate
Caitlyn says that younger children think in pictures, and recommends the NPR cartoon explaining coronavirus.. She also suggests showing them the “sandwich experiment” which illustrates how washing hands can stop the spread of a virus.
Acknowledge Their Feelings
While you want to remain calm, if kids say they are frightened, acknowledge that. “But refrain from telling your kids you’re frightened because that’s just adding fuel to the fire,” says Caitlyn. At a time like this, she says they need more reassurances–more hugs, more kisses, more “I love you’s” (not just little kids, those “big” kids too).
Demystify New Concepts Like Quarantine
Talk about how when someone in your house is sick, you keep them home from school to keep everyone else from catching their germs. “The concept of a quarantine is the same…it is about thinking about everyone, the good of the whole. A quarantine helps to keep those at risk safer as well as to stop the spread of the virus. Remind your children that we are all in this together,” says Caitlyn.
Create a “Sense of Control”
“After talking with your kids about the coronavirus, come up with a plan together. The plan can include personal care and hygiene items (washing hands, eating healthy, sleeping, exercise, wearing appropriate weather clothing, etc.), as well as coming up with a list of activities and foods for the possibility of being quarantined,” says Caitlyn. If you become quarantined with your family, she suggests reframing it as a “little adventure”.
Above all? Know that helping them weather this potentially frightening situation can build their resilience and let them know they can handle stressful times in the future!