As the world wide spread of Covid-19 has continued, we have noticed that in our careers as Child and Youth Care Practitioners, the children and youth we work with have this pandemic more on their mind than we did at times. A similar result of the national discussions of Donald Trump becoming president. The feelings and opinions of the outside world impact the younger generations whether we want it to or not. So we've gathered a few strategies we have used in our field to discuss these topics with children, in hopes you may find it helpful!
Reassure Them Their Role Isn't to Worry
With measures being taken to protect the public, along with constant reminders of how the average citizen can protect themselves and others; children could be taking the request to stay home, and not gather in large groups as their duty as well. The news and radio stations are all talking about it, it's a dialogue as common as the weather right now among adults, of course it's on their minds. As a parent, you can help reduce the panic feeling or worry this may bring your children with reassurance about everyone's role throughout this pandemic.
You can remind them that doctors and scientists have taken on the brave role of worrying about how to help stop Covid-19 from spreading.
Our minister of education and other officials have taken on the job of making some rules and measures for schools and businesses to follow so that everyone can be safe. Parents can reassure their children that the role families and childrenhave been given is to listen and respect the ways our country is keeping us safe. And we can praise ourselves on doing a great job! This reassurance can help children remember not their job to worry about Covid-19, and empower them in taking the steps that they can control (washing their hands, coughing into sleeves, etc.) rather than worrying about what will happen next.
Make a Con/Pros List with Them
This is something that as adults, many of us have been doing to help dampen the stressful impact that Covid-19 has had on our lives thus far. Remembering both the good and the bad of each situation this pandemic brings us can help us feel more balanced, and more in control as the uncertainty grows in our country. Depending on what conversations and emotions children have been exposed to thus far, they may not have had the chance or skills yet to pause, and think rationally about school closures and seeing crowds of panicked shoppers.
As parents, sitting down and helping rationalize the positives and negatives of the situation can help children feel more secure and comfortable during their time at home and while the country and world figure this disease out.
Some cons that may arise are: worry about family members, missing school friends, feeling scared by the news, etc.
Some positives you may brainstorm as a family are: more time together, more rest and sleeping in, preparing food together, the family pets not being lonely etc.
Another beneficial impact this strategy has is that it allows you to start an open dialogue about what feelings and thoughts Covid-19 is bringing up for your child, and based on the cons that come up, you can plan as a family on how to handle those together to help your children feel more secure and safe during this time.
Answer any Questions they have Openly and Honestly
There's no doubt that with today's access to information from around the world children have been exposed to opinions and conversations about Covid-19. Along with this random change in their academic year, they must have questions about both the disease, and what the next few weeks may bring. Thus far, these questions may have come up in a variety of environments. With friends at recess where they swap the opinions they've heard to try to learn whose version is true, or asking their teachers and support staff in their life as well.
From experience, we know children can perceive a lot of opinions they hear as fact, and that to help maintain calm and peace in a classroom or group, support staff will encourage children to ask or talk about these subjects at home with their parents.
Being at home for the next few weeks provides parents with the opportunity to be the main source of information for their child about Covid-19. This means a chance to take all the opinions they may have heard on the radio or school yard, and replace them with facts and honesty.
Some children may want to know if what they've heard is true, or what will happen next. Being honest about what is happening in the world right now doesn't have to be scary if you stick to facts. Some examples of how to be honest without reinforcing the fear your children may have been exposed to are:
"Yes, this disease is all over the world right now, not just Canada. Doctors working very hard in every country to keep everyone safe."
"Not everyone who gets sick dies, but some people do. Our whole country is working hard to make sure everyone who gets sick gets lots of care and medicine they may need to get better though, we can trust them to do what's best for people who are sick. Lots of people who have gotten sick have also gotten better."
"We might have to stay inside for a while, but it's because it will help everyone to stay safe, it doesn't mean we are in danger"
The great news about being open and honest with the facts is that if there's a reaction of fear or worry in your child, you can return to earlier strategies and help reassure them and help them to feel safe and secure no matter what happens. This can be more helpful than having the opinions and worries they've already heard swirl in their heads whenever they hear the news or think about being off of school.
It also breeds trust and confidence in you for information. This increases the likelihood that if they hear an opinion somewhere they'll come to you for guidance, and trust you to help them with any feelings the information about Covid-19 brings.
Trust in your Ability to Comfort Them
As adults, many of us are leaning on each other for information, validation, and comfort that everything will be okay. As parents, don't underestimate your ability to provide this for your children. No matter what storm of panic, opinions, and worry is brewing outside your doors, you can trust that as a parent you can comfort your child through this no matter which strategies or methods you choose.
Through the obstacles and worry your children have already faced through their lives you have been a consistent and comforting force for them. Through arguments with their friends, worry about their grades, bullying from peers, and more, you have been a guiding and constant force for your children already, As the uncertainty and new changes from Covid-19 arise, you can keep being that helpful force, however is right for your family.
For more information to keep yourself updated as a citizen and parent, visit the World Health Organization for consistent updates: