Today’s post comes from Amy Shepley…
During the Coronavirus pandemic, I have been staying with my brother and his family. He and his wife have three boys, aged 7, 4, and 2.
It’s so hard to break their little hearts. I’m sure some people have had to cancel long-awaited birthday parties and sleepovers. As the news has spread, more and more of their activities have been canceled. Therefore, we have had to have difficult conversations.
We have had to disappoint them. We’ve had to tell them they can’t see their friends.
Some of our friends even had to cancel a vacation to see their grandparents. How disappointing for us, even as adults!
Yet, it must be so much more confusing for our kids, who can’t understand what is happening and why ‘social distancing’ is so critical.
It can be scary, but it is so important. How we tell them is just as important, because they are relying on us to guide them.
It’s what we need to do, just like we need to teach them about the importance of handwashing to stop the spread of the disease. Luckily, they loved learning it through this simple pepper & soap experiment about germs. Making it understandable is so important!
“Kids worry more when they’re kept in the dark”
Rachel Ehmke said this and it’s so true. We don’t want to give them the room to worry, so let’s be honest with them, in a gentle way.
5 easy ways to approach this with kids in a gentle way.
- Lightly explain what a virus is.
You could say, ‘A virus is like a teeny tiny bug that can live inside of people or animals. Imagine an ant so tiny; you would need special glasses to see it! And you know what? You’ve had little bugs like this inside you before! Remember that time you had a cold? That was a virus! Viruses make us sick!’
- Talk about how important it is to be healthy.
Talk about how you want their bodies to be strong. You could say, ‘We have to miss out on (hockey, gymnastics, our trip to the beach, Sarah’s birthday party, etc.) because right now, there’s a new virus that is making lots of people sick. In fact, it can make you so sick you might have to go to the hospital.I would feel so sad if you or your friends got sick. So right now, it’s best if we stay home so that no one gets it.’.
- Think about their feelings.
Make sure you empathize with their disappointment. It will help them to know you are also missing out on things, but that it’s really important to be healthy. Explain what being healthy and staying healthy looks like for your child: washing their hands, not going out if it’s not necessary, not touching things while we are outside of the home, etc…
Jamie Howard, Ph.D., a child psychologist at the Child Mind Institute, reminds us that, “Kids feel empowered when they know what to do to keep themselves safe.”
- You can use words like ‘sick and healthy’ instead of words like ‘safe or dangerous.‘
These kinds of words show concern and love instead of fear and panic. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reminds us:
“Remember that children will react to both what you say and how you say it. They will pick up cues from the conversations you have with them and with others.”
- Be age-appropriate.
Your four-year-old might just be happy to stay home and watch movies with mom, and nothing else needs to be said. But your older children will have more questions. Navigate carefully.
You know your kids best, so trust your instincts. Our hearts are with you as you face new conversations and situations in the coming days! We’re all in this together, and taking care of one another.