Explaining Covid-19 to kids can be simplified with metaphors and role-playing “what if” scenarios. Children generally respond well to openness, direct discussion and well-informed answers (with a huge dose of patience).
It is important for YOU to shape the ideas your child has about Covid-19. Janine Domingues, PhD, a child psychologist at the Child Mind Institute explains:
“You take on the news and you’re the person who filters the news to your kid. Your goal is to help your children feel informed and get fact-based information that is likely more reassuring than whatever they’re hearing from their friends.”
Here are some ways you can convey honest but positive messages to children
If your children have seen Frozen II, you can use Elsa as a good example of navigating unknown scenarios. Elsa (and Anna) both face an uncertain future and adopt “do the next right thing” approach to decision making when we don’t know what is around the corner. Bracing for uncertainty is difficult for all of us but especially difficult for children who thrive on routine.
Dealing with recent unemployment, sickness or home schooling are all changes that may impact normal daily life – the best approach is to tackle change with optimism and courage (just like Elsa and Anna). Summon your inner strength and fear forward.
If you are stressed, worried or anxious, your child will pick up on this and react. Some children worry about their parents and it is important for it to be clear that the parent is in charge (and in charge of their emotions).
Outbursts, meltdowns and crazy behavior are likely unavoidable by both parents and children in such a volatile setting – especially when children are housebound with parents trying to work and home-school. Do your best to go outside a few times a day or exercise with your kids – there are so many yoga, meditation, dance apps and programs.
Think back to your own parents and the times when they were a pillar for you, remember their strengths and what worked well. Our parents were a generation that endured hard times and made the best out of tough situations. Keep your cool. Your emotions should be like the flattened curve graph – not the spikey one!
Try as much as possible to develop a new routine that is fluid. Plan/structure the day the night before as this will help. Set a routine chart in a area where everyone can see it. Use pictures (with magnets or Velcro) of every activity including jobs and “lunch” and allow everyone to have some input into what order they go in. They need to see what is in store for the day. Children love helping. Now is a good time to get them involved in cleaning, cooking, washing and gardening. Give them pocket money or other rewards, be generous. If schooling from home, there are wealth of resources (almost too many). Many subscriptions have become free during the period. Try Twinkle or Scholastica (which teachers use).
Use words like “challenge” rather than “problem”. Let children feel a part of the community in helping tackle Covid-19. They will also have to step up and be the best they can be when parents are trying to homeschool between working from home and other stresses. They need to understand that to fight COVID-19, everyone as to pull together – even strangers, and countries that normally fight are engaging in a ceasefire.
Stay positive and use as much praise as possible when children are being obedient, helping or focusing on their school work. While social distancing applies the wider community – it should be the opposite at home. Give as many cuddles, tickles and kisses as possible. Play some role playing games as well, where kids can play at doctors, hospitals and paramedics to become solution focused.
We often talk about children’s resilience, but now is the time for parents to really show kids how to be resilient.
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