Talking to kids about their new reality during COVID-19

June 04, 2020 | by Edward-Elmhurst Health
Categories: Healthy Driven Moms

Navigating life during the COVID-19 pandemic can be difficult for all of us. Chances are your children have questions and are facing their own struggles as they grapple with this new normal.

You may be unsure how to broach this topic with your children. Don’t worry — you’re not the only one trying to figure it out.

Here are a few tips to keep in mind when talking to your children about their new reality during the pandemic:

  • Provide the (age-appropriate) facts. Younger children may picture the virus as a scary monster that can sneak through their window, says Dan Santangelo, LCPC with Linden Oaks Behavioral Health. Let them know it’s a small germ and talk to them about catching their sneeze or cough in their elbow, keeping their hands clean and being careful not to touch their eyes, nose or mouth.

    For older children, relate it to something they already know. For example, much like a cold or flu virus, COVID-19 can spread through the air when someone coughs, sneezes or talks. The distance germs travel can be up to 6 feet, according to research, which is how social distancing became a way to avoid contracting the virus.

    Provide the facts (in an age-appropriate manner) and let them ask questions. This online storybook video may help you discuss the basics of the virus.

  • Give them a role in the fight against the virus. “I find that kids want to help if you encourage them and let them know you need their help,” says Santangelo. Let them know that handwashing, wearing a mask when out in public, wiping down frequently-touched surfaces, and using their elbow to play catch with their sneezes and coughs all contribute to the fight against the virus.

  • Pay attention to the messages you’re sending and be honest. “Kids are radars,” says Santangelo. “They feel us and they know (when something is wrong). They always do.”  You may be dealing with a job loss or the loss of a loved one. Discussing these weightier topics with your children can be tricky, but providing them with information about what’s happening takes away the fear of the unknown, says Santangelo. You might also consider contacting a counselor to help your family deal with the situation.

  • Reassure them that this is temporary and they are safe. You may not know whether school will be open in the fall, but tell them what you do know so they understand what to expect in the short term. Let them know that you’ll answer any other questions as soon as you have the information.

  • Stick to a schedule. It may look different than what you or your children are used to, but try to maintain some structure to your day where it matters most. Keep set wake and sleep times, eat meals together, schedule family game time, and encourage them to stay active, such as going for walks, riding their bikes or shooting hoops in the driveway.

Keeping your children in the loop with clear communication will help your whole family get through this pandemic together.

If you or a member of your family would benefit from working with a therapist, please contact Linden Oaks Behavioral Health at 630-305-5027 for a free behavioral health assessment.

For updates on our planning and response efforts as we work to stop the spread of COVID-19, please check EEHealth.org/coronavirus.

Get more information about coronavirus from Healthy Driven Chicago.

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