Photo by August de Richelieu on Pexels.com

Talking With Children About COVID-19

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Our kids are listening. Photo by August de Richelieu on Pexels.com

Exciting days of novelty and the adventure of quarantine have given way to the tedium of daily life. Where once we had the enthusiasm to designate special days, plan special meals, and set aside special time with each other, our energy has waned.

After two months of quarantine, we are tired. Our kids’ questions continue without pause. The same old questions about anything and everything. And, of course, questions about COVID-19 and the quarantine.

It is important that you deliver questions and answers in a way that is appropriate for your child’s age. Giving too much information can frighten them, and giving too little information can leave them confused.

There are general guidelines to follow when answering your child’s questions.

Veteran parents know this already. Sometimes kids innocently ask questions that can lead down awkward paths. So our first piece of advice is to make sure you know what question it is you are answering.

 

Answer their question with a question: What do you know about this already?

Finding out where your child stands on the available information is a very good guide for how to answer their question. You don’t want to give a talk about the birds and the bees when your child really meant to ask a question about which hospital they were born in, for instance.

 

Your answer should provide information that is developmentally appropriate.

A child might ask if COVID-19 is dangerous. Giving an answer that is too simple like “yes” or “no” will leave the child to his or her imagination and worst fears. Or, worse yet, may prompt your child to act irresponsibly in a place where their decisions will impact their health.

Instead, provide facts with language that puts the threat in perspective. Most people who get COVID-19 experience flu-like symptoms and difficulty breathing. Many of them can go about their daily business as usual while staying away from others, but some of them get very sick and must go to the hospital.

Depending on the age and maturity level of your children, you may wish to discuss more specific details of the ailment. If your child is prone to worrying and anxiety, it is wise to emphasize the many precautions being put in place by your family, their teachers, and community leaders in order to keep everyone safe.

 

Your answer should correct any misinformation they have.

Children may have heard, or misheard, some wild information about the spread of the virus. You know many adults have heard and passed on unverified or obviously false information on your Facebook feed, after all!

So if they say something that is factually incorrect, you have a responsibility to tell them the truth. They inherently trust your word, and every time you pass on true information, it confirms your reliability as a resource and a guide for life’s big questions.

 

Your answer should be separated from your owns fear and biases

The discussion around quarantine and COVID-19 is very political. We can’t help but be biased in our responses to certain kinds of information. However, with our children, it is important to filter out this bias as much as possible. Introducing political bias to younger children can cause them to feel unsafe in their world, and can lead to poor outcomes later in life.

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Be very careful to separate facts from fears. Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

Instead, explain that there are different points of view, and demonstrate who has the authority to make certain decisions, and what decisions they have made.

If your family is taking more precautions, or fewer precautions, you can explain it this way: authorities have given rules for what people should do generally, but in your particular situation, you have determined that this change is safe for you and your family.

 

Focus on your efforts to keep them safe

When you discuss the effects of COVID-19, this is a good time to explain what your family or community has done differently to protect them. You can explain that they stayed home from school in order to keep themselves and their family members safe. You can explain why you do or don’t wear masks in certain situations, and relate this to their safety and how the disease is spread.

 

Give them practical information to protect themselves

Children are generally curious and will experiment. This includes doing things that we know aren’t safe or are not wise. Maybe you have a child who is a “smeller” or a “taster”, or one who goes to the very edge of where you said she could go, and then goes a little further.

This is normal child behavior. So it is important that you provide information about how to keep themselves safe when you are not there to watch every second. Give your child access to handwashing materials and their own mask and other supplies, and allow them to help with cleaning and doing laundry, where germs and viruses are disposed of for good.

 

Help them be part of a larger community

In many communities, children are writing hopeful messages on sidewalks with colored chalk. Others are taking part in family game nights or video conferences with their family. Help your children see that they are an important part of their community. Teach them to be positive and proactive in reaching out to others and in lifting their spirits.

 

Seek help if you or a family member exhibits anxiety or depression

As is always the case, signs of anxiety and depression should be taken seriously. A pandemic and quarantine increase the chances that it will be necessary, and they increase the chance you will have to see it in yourself and your family.

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If this happens, you can seek help through therapists such as Sakina Issa. She, like many others, utilize online counseling to provide discreet, convenient, and research-backed therapy to help you lead a happier, healthier life.

Select the “Book Now” button on this page to find a time that is convenient for you.

 

 

 

 

 

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