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Talking to Kids about Coronavirus (COVID-19)

There is a lot of fear surrounding the Coronavirus and what it means for families. Some adults think the world is over-reacting and creating an unnecessary panic, while others think we are definitely in harm’s way and need to prepare for the worst. Considering this from a child’s perspective, you have to wonder what kids are thinking and how they feel as we march forward into the unknown.

Often we address the physical needs of our children, but forget to ask about their emotional needs. Are you talking to your children? If not, they are likely watching the world and internalizing their thoughts and feelings. Right now, they need a safe person to share with; they need you. Here are 4 simple steps to create that conversation:

Step #1. Don’t make assumptions. You don’t know what each of your children has heard, how their brain is processing the information and what fears they may have. Don’t assume they are okay or not okay. Check in and ask questions. Don’t push if they aren’t talking. Remain curious and interested in how they are doing. Knowing you are there will make them feel safe.

Step #2. Listen. Let them share everything they are feeling and thinking. Do not interrupt. Do not correct them. You are not clarifying details in this moment. You are simply finding out what is going on inside of them.

Step #3. Validate their feelings. Let them know you don’t blame them for being scared or angry or confused or sad; a lot of people are feeling that way. Thank them for sharing. Give them a big hug and hold them. Whatever they are feeling, validate it. Whatever they are needing from you, give it to them. Each person experiences crisis differently. You don’t want your child feeling alone or afraid to talk. You want them leaning on you. This is one of your most important roles as a parent.

Step #4. Reassure your child. Share how you and the community are taking steps to keep everyone safe. Be honest. Share only information your child is already thinking about. (That’s why you ask for their thoughts first.) Find out what causes them anxiety, and ease that fear. Let them know you understand how they feel, things are being handled, and they are in good hands.

Remember:

  • Talk often. These are not one-time conversations.
  • This too shall pass. This is temporary. Be kind in the process.
  • Focus on love. We all have a choice right now to focus on the fear or enjoy the time at home with family. Take care of preparations and then focus on your family. Catch up on activities and projects you may not otherwise have time to do.
  • Limit outside information. For younger children, limit their news exposure on TV, radio and internet. For older children who are online and connecting with friends, ask them to keep you updated on what they hear. This will create opportunities for conversations and allows you to process the information with them.
  • Hugs and physical touch are reassuring.
  • Be available regardless of what you’re doing (sleeping, working, etc.).
  • Pray together. Prayer is powerful.

Before we know it, life will be calling us back to a fast and busy pace. Do you want that life again? Take the lessons that come from this event and incorporate them into your family’s lifestyle going forward. What has your family been missing? What do you need to change? That is the silver lining. That is turning lemons into lemonade. Don’t miss the opportunity to use this for good. You can’t always control what happens, but you can absolutely control what you do with it.

Be safe. Be healthy. Be kind. Be patient. Be loving. Be there for your kids.

Traci L. Williams is the Founder of A Loving Way to Parent. She provides parenting classes, teen programs and individual coaching. She is known for her practical parenting style and can be reached directly at 951-240-1407 or traci@alovingway.com. www.alovingway.com

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