As we continue to live with the new reality that COVID-19 has brought, some of us are finding it challenging to know how to talk with our children about this difficult topic and how to help them manage their questions or feelings.
One of the most important tools that we can use in helping our children deal with challenging emotions is by modeling for them how we ourselves manage difficult emotions through acknowledging the feeling, talking about the situation and processing the information. In doing this we are cultivating understanding and a sense of calm. Some ways that we might do this are through asking our child open-ended questions and allowing for whatever responses our child might give. Instead of saying, “Wow, this is scary, isn’t it?”, we can choose to ask, “What do you think about COVID-19?”, or “What do you think about the changes that COVID-19 has
We can choose to validate their experiences and emotions, which can be
comforting and reassuring. We can be mindful about how we as adults talk about the virus and what messages our children might be hearing from us, or from other media sources. We can choose to focus on the facts of the situation and to share a message of safety with our children.
And very importantly, we can choose to step away from focusing on the virus or talking about it to instead focus on nurturing moments of joy, connection and healthy habits within our families. Focusing on positives aspects within the family can serve as a powerful protective factor, as we know that when we are psychologically well our immune systems are stronger and better able to fight any type of disease or virus that we may encounter.
The CDC has put out a list of recommendations for how to talk with children about the virus, which lists in detail some of the strategies discussed above. Healthination also wrote this article outlining ways that we can talk with children about the virus in a way that feels calm, safe and is affirming of the child’s experience.
As always, we as counselors are here to talk with you about any concerns you may have related to your child’s or family’s well-being.