I’m going to self-disclose right now that when my young daughter came home from school last week she was upset because she heard that “if you catch the virus, you can’t be near anyone”, her young mind interpreted it as “if you catch the virus, you have to be all alone- without your mom and dad.” Sad right? Anyways that’s been cleared up and we’re good. But I know many parents struggle with these conversations.
I always suggest keeping two things in mind when addressing sensitive subjects with children, number one take their lead and number two encourage them to ask questions. Make sure you’re not giving more information than they need. Unless your child is very young, they likely have some awareness about COVID-19 and have already come home from school regurgitating some of the information they heard. Encourage them to tell you what they know and allow them to ask questions. By approaching the topic this way, it can help parents keep the conversation age appropriate. You’re not overtelling but rather clarifying their concerns and directly answering their questions. This helps them to make better sense of what’s going on so they can feel settled with anything distressing.
If your child is resistant to change, they may be struggling more with how to cope with the repercussions of COVID-19, such as being out of school and activities. It’s important to highlight all of the things that are remaining the same among the change. This can allow them to see that even though some things have changed in their routine, there are many things that remain the same.
When addressing changes, present them in a positive light. For example, mom and dad get to be your teachers now (YAY!), you get to spend more time with the family or your pet. Maybe you can motivate them with more hands-on lessons like cooking! The more enthusiastic and positive you present something, the better.
If your child is fearing the unknown (as many people with anxiety do), present them with some perspective. Children with anxiety often have unproductive thoughts like “this stinks, I’m going to be stuck in this house forever.” Sometimes they just need some validation and a reality check, “yes, this is difficult right now but it’s not going to be this way forever.”
At the end of your conversation, tell them they can come to you if they have any other questions or concerns. You may be surprised with how having these conversations opens them up to keep coming back when anything confusing comes up in their lives. Most parents strive to have their kids come to them first for information, myself included!