Here we are 3 months into the new year and there’s been a LOT to cope with. The reality is we are living in a different world right now. While it is uncertain AF, what is for sure is our kids need support and they are looking to us to set the tone for how life will be in the coming weeks.
If you are looking for suggestions with how to help your kids cope during the Coronavirus pandemic, I’ve got 4 tips for you. (Feel free to click the image below to save a copy for future reference).
Tip 1: Let them lead- Allow your son/daughter to guide the conversation. Refrain from forcing them to talk. Pay close attention to their non-verbal cues and go from there.
The questions will come, and when they do, be ready to let your child be the guide. Do your best to answer them without adding a lot of extra emotion. By this point I don’t think there is a school-age child who doesn’t know something about COVID-19, especially since they know by now that they will be out of school for a few weeks (or more), so it is impossible to avoid some kind of questions. My advice- let them lead the conversation with their questions and don’t force them to talk about any thoughts they have. When, and if they have questions/thoughts, they will share them.
Tip 2: Ask, Answer, Acknowledge- Ask questions to find out how they feel. Consider their age and level of maturity when answering questions. Don’t lie. Recognize and affirm how they are feeling; their feelings are real and valid.
Use the 3 A’s: Ask, Answer, Acknowledge. Following their questions, ask follow up questions to find out how they feel. “What do you think about that?…How does that make you feel?…I can understand why you feel that way.” These are my normal go-to’s when my son shares his thoughts about the Coronavirus and how he’s feeling. I make it a point to affirm how he feels because his feelings are real. If there is something I don’t know I tell him that upfront. Word of caution- refrain from lying. If it’s something you don’t know, either commit to finding out the answer or be honest about not knowing.
Tip 3: Just listen- Understand that you do not have to have a response for everything. Sometimes your presence and silence can speak volumes. Give a hug, kiss, gentle touch to communicate your love and support.
There are times when no words are needed and what your kids need is YOU. Sit close. Give hugs. Cuddle. Spend that quality time with them that sends the reassuring message that you are there. Pay attention to them when they’re talking and practice active listening. Put the phone down, turn off the TV, take a moment away from the computer and give them your full attention. These are the things that build trust and ultimately confidence within then.
Tip 4: Don’t oversaturate- Be mindful of the amount of exposure kids get as a result of the difficult news. Consider the impact this can have on their emotional and physical health. Change the channel/radio station, put down the tablet and take a break.
This fourth tip has never meant more to me than it does now. The amount of news coverage about COVID-19 is nonstop. In my house we are morning news watchers, so when I began to notice my son’s reaction to hearing about newly diagnosed cases over breakfast and recommendations for keeping the transmission down while he prepared for his school day, I eventually had to turn the TV off. What did we do instead? For the past two weeks during breakfast he reads, draws, talks with me, we work on spelling words aloud or we’ve played some question-type games using an app (and some of those days he has prepared his own breakfast…cereal or toast style!). I have been able to see the positive effect these small changes are having on him and me. Because, let’s face it, this is A LOT for us to cope with as adults.
Life as we know it is something we’ve never seen before and really couldn’t have truly planned for. I’m right there with you trudging my way through explaining the details of what the various closures means and wiping my son’s tears as the reality of it all sinks in. As a Mom I’m working on taking deep breaths, practicing mindfulness through meditation and positive self-talk, asking for help and remembering the 4 tips above. Plus there’s wine…grapes are good for your health!
Be well and be safe. -krystal