If your kids are at all like my kids right now, there are a lot of questions about COVID-19 and even MORE questions about what's going to happen next;
What's going to happen with school?What's going to happen with spring break?Will we have to come back to school over the summer? How is this virus going to spread in Utah? Is anyone I know going to get sick? So many questions!! And, questions that a lot of us don't have answers to. That kind of uncertainty can create anxiety and panic in children, as well as adults, as we have clearly seen with the current social responses. BUT, IT DOESN'T HAVE TO!! Sometimes as parents we want to shield our kids from these very "adult" struggles so we just don't say anything, wrongly assuming that because we haven't brought anything up, our children won't know about what's happening. Or, even worse, we present "worse case scenarios" or use heightened and dramatic language which only serves to add to panic and chaos. Here are some parenting "pro tips" to help navigate this sensitive situation.
- Be mindful of your own "drama language". Focus on the facts, without adding unnecessary emotional commentary that can serve to add to the panic and anxiety our kids may already be feeling. If we talk like it's the end of the world, that is what our children will believe is really happening.
- Model appropriate coping skills. Your children might ask you questions you don't have the answers to. It's ok to say "I don't know". To alleviate the anxiety that comes with uncertainty, something that I find helpful is to validate and address that feeling, and then process coping skills. This might look like saying: "I don't know the answer and sometimes that makes me feel a little afraid when I don't know what's going to happen. When I'm afraid, something I like to do to feel calm is......., what is something that helps you feel calm?"
- Keep things as normal and scheduled as possible. Kids THRIVE in predictable environments. It creates safety. Keep bedtimes and meal times as regular as possible. Your child will have required DAILY schoolwork sent out by their teacher. Help your child set up a schedule for this at-home learning. Help them stick to that schedule every day. It might even be helpful to add in some daily scheduled time for playing outside, art, or other creative activities to keep your child still in a learning mindset.
Here are some other helpful resources you might want to consider: A child friendly video explaining COVID-19 from the CDC Parenting Tips from WebMd to help anxious kids Helping Kids with Anxiety-parenting tips from PSYCOM