I don’t know about your house, but in mine our conversations have shifted quite a lot. Where before it was mostly talking in passing… “Morggs do you have your keys?” “What time is class today Kammie?” has shifted to so much more. I’m amazed at the connection I’m forging through this pandemic with my girls. We’ll sit and talk in a different way… because the world has paused. As much as I love going out and about, this is the one thing I’m most grateful for… time to reconnect.
Honestly, I think some harder conversations are coming sooner than later. Talking about what we’re going to do when this is all over and things open back up. How to deal with that fear and what the new “normal” is going to look like. Remember, this entire situation has been one long traumatic event.
Trauma. A topic with which even grown-ups have a difficult time. It’s especially not easy to broach the subject with your children, be they six or sixteen. Young children may feel upset or confused or even anxious. And even though you may have settled into a routine, they may still have such a huge range of emotions right now regarding what’s going on in the world.
This whole situation isn’t easy for anyone to comprehend or accept, especially our young ones. No matter how old your kids are, the news about COVID-19 can affect them emotionally. Many can feel worried, frightened, angry, or even guilty. And these anxious feelings can, and probably will, last long after this pandemic is over.
So what do we do? And most importantly how do we talk to our children about this?
Yes, children are resilient, even those who are exposed to trauma. They can get through difficult times and move on with their lives even from the worst circumstances. As parents, by creating an open environment where they feel free to ask questions, we can help them cope and deal with the influx of emotions surrounding this global pandemic.
So what can you do as a parent to help your kids deal with all this information?
Don’t just turn off the Telly and dismiss –
You can’t protect your children from the world forever. However, you do need to monitor what they are watching. Be mindful of age appropriate footage shown, and watch WITH THEM so that you can explain and discuss. Young kids simply don’t have the ability to understand news events in context, much less know whether or not a source of information is credible. And though older teens are better able to understand current events, even they face challenges when it comes to sifting fact from opinion — or misinformation.
Speaking of teens –
Let’s face it, most time your teens will get the news independently of you, whilst on their smartphone. Make an effort to reach out to them, talking with them can offer great insights into their beliefs and their senses of justice and morals. It will give you a snapshot of what they already know or have learned about the situation from their own social media. It will also give you the chance to dispel misinformation and to give them your thoughts. Be careful to not dismiss THEIR ideas/thoughts about the situation. Doing that will just make them shut down and not tell you how they feel.
Whatever their reaction, normalise it. If they say they’re afraid, tell them “Lots of kids and even adults feel afraid after what happened. It was very scary.” Don’t shut them down with words like, “Don’t worry about it.” or “There’s nothing to be frightened about.” Yes, even if they’re angry. Let them express it. Especially right now, with the recent attack in Manchester being so close to home, it’s entirely normal for them to feel that way. Even if that’s technically true that they are not in any immediate danger, that’s not how they feel. They’ll feel dismissed and learn you’re not a safe, or trustworthy person with which to speak.
What could happen vs. what WILL happen –
Teens and more mature children can think abstractly and you can, therefore, have the probability vs. possibility talk with them. Is it likely that they will get COVID-19? No. Is it possible? Yes. This is a good time to talk about safety. Make sure they understand social distancing fully. What will they do when they have to go back outside again? Make a plan. Planning always calms nerves and gives a feeling of empowerment.
Be aware of misinformation –
This is a big one. Many people are spreading misinformation and giving false facts about this virus and the pandemic. You can be certain your children are being exposed to this kind of talk. Even if they’ve not said it, talk to them about this. Discuss the NHS guidelines. Look up accurate information. Make sure they know where YOU stand on this. Make it a teachable moment.
Negative influences –
Sometimes our children’s mates might inappropriately make a joke or make light of the situation. Depending on their age, younger children might not be able to grasp the gravity of the situation we find ourselves in. They could also be parroting things they’ve seen other grown-ups say/post. This CAN filter into your house through your children. Don’t freak out but gently reinforce the seriousness of this disease and how sad it is when anyone passes from this world.