These are confusing times for young and old alike. We are bombarded with news and discouraging numbers. Families have gone from packed calendars, not having family time, and meals on the go to having nothing on the calendar, constant together time, and family meals now that school, sports events, and employment are canceled. Seems like that should be a good thing – but how is it working out? We are traveling in uncharted waters and these are unsettling times for many. How can you help children through this time of flux when we, adults, don’t even know what to expect?
Educate Yourself and Your Family
The first step may be to educate yourself with facts from reliable sources. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO) have solid up-to-date information online. Avoid panic. Stay calm, factual and honest when talking with your children about the coronavirus. Many current terms are new for everyone. When did you first learn about “social distancing”? My six-year-old granddaughter wanted to know why we have “social dancing for COVID Nike” (perhaps social distancing for COVID-19) as if we were talking about some kind of dance to do with gym shoes.
Be sure to do some reflective listening to see what your child is hearing and what they understand. Address misperceptions and encourage conversation. A school psychologist shared with me the following link and I want to pass it on because it is helpful in many aspects of the pandemic we are experiencing and specifically talks about how to talk with your children.
As defined by SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration), social distancing is “a way to keep people from interacting closely or frequently enough to spread an infectious disease.” The WHO says that approximately 3 to 6 feet of separation are required. Helping children to understand why we are staying away from other people and how that will help us stay well may ease fear and anxiety. I don’t think anyone realized the toll that social distancing, quarantine or isolation could take on mental health when we first heard these terms. SAMHSA has a 4-page handout online that defines social distancing, quarantine, isolation and outlines some self-care tips. Taking care of ourselves and others is really the key to coping.
9 Tips for Parents
There is lots of advice from the media on what we “should” be doing as our new normal becomes staying home, social distancing, and trying to stay well. We all need to make a plan and not be overwhelmed by the amount of information we are bombarded with.
Stay positive! Let’s try to be a beacon of light for our children, families, and neighbors in this confusing world.