The current COVID-19 pandemic is impacting families worldwide. As our children are exposed to news, media and they overhear conversations at home or school, it is important to acknowledge their experience and offer support. It can be difficult to know how to approach the issue. Here are some tips for talking about this pandemic, or any other issue, with your children.
Be aware of our own feelings
Our children are very in tune with our emotional energy – if we are feeling anxious or stressed, it is likely our children are too. We must remember to be compassionate and kind to ourselves. Practice mindfulness, self-care and have our own means for stress management. Practice accepting to your own feelings and having these listened to by someone whom you feel safe with. This will allow you to be better able to listen to your child’s feelings. We are their secure base – by simply feeling calm ourselves we are providing our children with a sense of safety.
Empower with knowledge
We can explain the facts to our children at a level that is age appropriate. For example, we might explain that COVID-19 is a virus, similar to the flu or common cold, that travels between people and brings with it things like a fever, cough or difficulty breathing. Just like when you get a graze on your knee, your body is able to heal and the virus does not stay with you forever, almost everyone will get better if they get it.
Listen to and acknowledge feelings
We can be mindful of automatic responses to unintentionally dismiss our children’s feelings or concerns. For example, we might state, “oh you will be fine” which comes from a place of love in seeking to reassure our child, but it does not hold space for them to truely express how they are feeling. When we dismiss emotions we can inadvertently teach children not to listen to or trust their feelings.
Instead, we can listen quietly whilst giving them our full attention. We can ask our children to share what they think about the situation then acknowledge and give feeling a name. For example, “I hear you are feeling worried”.
Holding a safe space for children to talk means we don’t ask too many questions or place any pressure to talk about it. If you’re child doesn’t wish to talk about it right now, remind them you are here to talk if and when they are ready, or offer alternatives. Verbal discussion about concerns is not a natural means of communication for children. Instead, you can encourage them to draw a picture, write a letter or use figurines to play out the scenario on their mind. Play is the language of the child, it is also the space where they problem solve and process their internal worlds.
Giving our children some sense of control also serves them with comfort. Remind them of what we can do in this situation; nourish our bodies with healthy foods, get enough rest, wash our hands and stay home if we are sick.
Ask children for them to suggest solutions to dealing with pandemic and their feelings. What do they need? How can they communicate their distress? Perhaps a dedicated journal or a regular check-in time in the day can be established.
I hope these ideas serve you with confidence to talk to your children as well as a reminder to look after yourselves as parents and carers too. Please share your ideas for our community In the comments below too.