The world is a crazy, loud place. And it seems to have gotten even more crazy over the last few weeks. COVID-19 is scaring everyone, possibly because we don’t totally seem able to grasp how real and severe it could be.
For as confusing and scary and big as this is for us, just imagine how this feels for our kids.
I recently went Live on Facebook to ask our followers how they’re talking about this with their kids. How do you calmly and wisely keep your kids updated about what’s happening in the world instead of inciting panic? How do you answer their questions honestly and rationally, without inserting your own emotions, fears or worries into the conversation?
Most of you know I have three young boys: a 3 year old, a 2 year old and a 5 month old. The baby is easy; no questions there. The 2-year old is tricky; he’s aware of a change but isn’t able to communicate the realization and doesn’t know how to ask real questions (yet). My 3 year old, however, is extremely astute. He knows something is different. He knows we’ve altered from our routine. But the dead giveaway for my boys is that my husband is working from home during the busiest time of the year for him (tax season).
So the questions have come up:
- Why can’t we just run to Target to get more diapers?
- Why are you ordering more stuff online?
- Why can’t we go to the grocery store?
- Why aren’t we going to school?
And I’ve answered them all the same way: “There are a lot of people who are very sick right now, so we’re staying home so we don’t get sick and they can get better faster.”
For now, that seems to be enough of an answer.
And for many who shared their own approaches with their kids, it seems to be a similar theme: don’t volunteer too much information. Explain in the most basic terms what’s happening and then wait for more questions.
This has been an approach that has worked well for younger kids.
But what about older kids? Kids who are old enough to be aware of a little more change and why that change is happening? Kids who are old enough to have jobs and this news is impacting their ability to work, whether they’ve been told to not come in for an extended period of time or that they are working extra shifts at grocery stores or pharmacies.
Though I haven’t heard much from parents about what they’re doing with the older age groups, my guidance is as follows: be honest. Be calm. Check your emotions and anxiety at the door. Don’t be dismissive of their concerns; actively listen to what they’re saying or asking and be confident in your response, even if your answer is “I don’t know.”
Be human. Be their parent.
Be sure to take a moment for yourself in all of this, too. It’s not possible to be calm, check your emotions and be anxious. We know what we have to do, we just don’t always know how.
Start by taking a deep breath then find someone to talk to. Whether it’s a friend, partner or coach, talking through things can be extremely helpful. Sometimes you just need to hear your worries out loud to start to control them.
Consider reading Are You a Life Owner or a Life Blamer