As adults, you may notice that talking about COVID-19 can be overwhelming and hard to process. Our kids are going through the same thing. Their whole world has shifted in a matter of weeks. Here are some ways to talk to your children about the virus.
Remind your kiddos of what they already know; wash your hands and cover your cough. We teach our kids this in early elementary school about colds and flus and the same goes for COVID. Showing them that they already have the skills to protect themselves gives them confidence. It is also a reminder of something they have control over.
Kids love games! Try making a game out of teaching them to avoid touching their eyes, nose, or mouth. Come up with a positive reinforcement system to reward your child when they follow through with not touching their face. If your kiddo is struggling with this, offer them a fidget toy or craft project to keep their hands busy. You can find a list of fidget toys here: https://www.weareteachers.com/fidget-toys/
Keep their routine as normal as possible. Bedtime and morning routines are crucial to keep your child’s mental health in rhythm. Before bed, do some deep breathing or stretches to expel anxious energy. Also, be sure to maintain your meal schedule as usual. Children thrive with routine and a pandemic is no different.
When your kids ask you questions about the virus, be honest. Explain to them in their language so they understand what is going on in the world. If you don’t know the answer, find a trusted news source and learn together. You know your child best; use your intuition to decide the details you share.
Talk to your kids about their emotions. Use an emotion wheel to prompt your children to talk about their day. Once you have helped them identify their feelings, talk about coping. "Did you feel scared? Let’s talk about ways to help you feel empowered." "Are you missing your friends? Let’s set up a FaceTime playdate or write them a letter." Here is a variety of facial expression print-outs to help prompt your kiddo: https://clickonenglish.blogspot.com/2012/11/feelings-how-do-you-feel.html?m=1
If your kids are feeling anxious or scared, that makes sense. Children are intuitive and know something is going on right now. Talk to them about their fears. Normalizing their emotions, will help them open up to you. Try teaching them coping skills for anxiety such as deep breathing, yoga, or start a worry journal together.
If you feel your child needs extra support during this time, reach out to your local NAMI organization (https://www.nami.org/Home) or search psychologytoday.com to find a local therapist. Telehealth services can give your children an extra outlet of support and help them learn coping skills during this uncertain time.
Written by: Mackenzie Kerber, MA, LPCC