We are no stranger to the pandemic panic that the Coronavirus has instilled in each and every individual. As the virus spreads, panic seems to spread with it. Through various forms of media, we can see the extreme reaction of many. During this time however, have we stopped to think of how the Coronavirus pandemic is affecting our children?
Our children are watching how we handle the Coronavirus.
How we handle ourselves in any given situation is one of the biggest things our kids learn from us. Unfortunately, what they are seeing is society’s intolerance to the unknown. They are experiencing the pandemic panic that is sweeping across the nation.
Little do we know, that while our kids seem to be “in their own world” or oblivious to what is happening around them, they pick up on far more than we realize. Whether babies or teens, our children can sense the unease of the adults closest to them.
It is time to slow down and think of how to talk to our children about the Coronavirus and what we, as parents, can do to help them. Instead of leaving your children to learn this information from the media or friends, take this time to help them better understand what is happening. You play a crucial role in helping them understand and manage their own worries or even anxiety about the virus.
Here are some tips on how to handle the stress of this pandemic panic with your children
1. Stay calm
While it may be difficult to do, it is pertinent that we stay calm around our children at this time. This is especially true for babies and toddlers. At this age, unlike others, you cannot simply explain what is happening and the reason behind any discomfort you may be feeling as their parent. We may not immediately think about our own reactions to situations due to them being so young.
In reality, babies and toddlers pick up on this unease which can create their own set of anxieties.
As for children that are old enough to understand the conversations happening around them, reassure them. Stay calm around them and let them know that many adults are working hard to keep people safe.
On the other hand, make sure that you are being cautious of what you say in front of your children. We all know that little ones often have the biggest ears. When we talk about this pandemic panic, we unknowingly cause stress to our children. Whether it is with your spouse or another adult, make sure to watch what concerns you reveal in front of your children.
Children of the preschool age may be particularly concerned about those in their family. Let them know that relatives are safe and that they are doing everything they need to be doing in order to stay healthy!
Starting at the preschool age, children may act out with negative behaviors or by being more irritable at this time. They are working out how to feel about the situation. Try to be more patient with them and remain calm. Showing your distress at this time can make things worse.
2. Acknowledge their feelings
In all ages, make sure to acknowledge the worry or concern that your child has about the current situation. If your child is younger, look for physical signs that they may display showing anxiety.
This may include what was stated above. They may be more irritable, clingy, or cautious.
Let your little one lead the way when it comes to their concerns. If you find that they are anxious, ask them how they are feeling and take it from there!
If you have older children and they show concern, ask them if they would like to talk about their feelings. When they have questions about what is happening, tell them only the facts that you know. Make sure not to play on what the media releases. This can be exaggerated and cause more fear in children.
Also, try to leave your own worry aside. Don’t speculate on what the future may bring and your own concerns regarding the virus.
If your children have seen stories online or through the news that frighten them, talk to them about which sources are reliable. Let them know where they can find information they can trust about the virus. Assure them that they should not worry about the pandemic panic they are seeing.
Our teens can mask how they are feeling behind not wanting to talk about the situation or making jokes about what is happening. This can make it difficult to recognize how the Coronavirus affects our children. I am sure that if you are on social media you have already seen numerous memes and videos poking fun at the situation. While it is important to keep calm, it is also important to inform our teens.
Make sure to redirect your older children. Place emphasis on truthful sources and ways to prevent the virus rather than unhealthy thoughts regarding the panic around it.
3. Limit exposure to media
There are two types of exposure limitation I am talking about. The obvious one, limit your child’s exposure to those outside of the home. If you haven’t heard of social distancing yet, look into it.
The exposure that I want to focus on here however, concerns the exposure your children may have to forms of media. The news and information we receive from social media has a tremendous impact on our distress. This is one of the main reasons that the Coronavirus affects our children.
As much resistance as we may get, especially from our teens, it may be necessary to limit media.
This may include:
- turning off the TV
- setting screen time limits
- turning off notifications
- turning off phones
Now, if this is impossible (I know teens can be difficult), educate them. Teach them what is and isn’t a reliable source of information. Encourage them to avoid sources that overdramatize and seek to evoke fear.
4. Maintain routine
If your child has a set routine, keep to it. From the time our children are babies, we are encouraged to set a routine. Why? Routines are reassuring. Our children know what to expect because it has been a part of their daily schedule. The pandemic panic they are experiencing is not something they know.
In a time of confusion and the unknown, maintain what is known by your children.
Around the time our children are in preschool, safety becomes a main concern for them. By doing any of the things above, you are letting them know that they are safe. However, keeping the routine that they have had is an unexpected way you can help make them feel safe.
This can be difficult to do when schools and events are being cancelled. There is a lot of change happening for everyone at this time due to the ever-shifting recommendations. Take the time to try and stick to their routines as much as you can.
Explain to your children why there have been changes in their routine such as school closings. Educate them on the reason behind these closings.
Despite our best efforts, concern for the future may still exist in our children. We, after all, cannot control everything as parents. As adults, we play the largest role in protecting them and promoting their mental health.
Ultimately, at this time, parents need to make sure that they remain calm and hone in on how their children are feeling. Make sure your actions match your words.
You can’t tell your children not to worry, expect them not to, and turn around to worry yourself.
Kids are smart. They see right through you. As much as we think we help by telling them to relax, they will pick up on your discomfort if you have it.
So parents, take this time to just be. Be with your family, educate them, acknowledge them, and remember that you are modeling healthy behavior for your children.