While kids may not be at high risk for contracting the coronavirus, they need to be protected in other ways.
My two boys were in school last Friday and now, mere days later, we’re holed up indoors homeschooling and working remotely. The speed at which this pandemic is moving and the domino effect it’s having on the economy and people’s psyches is so stressful. Last week when I bought more groceries than normal, my eleven-year old seemed puzzled and asked me if I was worried about the coronavirus. I didn’t want to alarm him, so I said, “No, not worried. I just want to be prepared.”
Over the next several days, both boys began asking a lot of questions about the coronavirus, which made me wonder how much information I should divulge and in what ways I should approach the topic. Toxic stress is a real thing and weakens the architecture of the brain leading to behavioral, emotional and psychological issues. I especially worry about children who’ve already been under stress, due to homelessness, abuse, neglect, etc., and are now having to deal with this. Not every child has a warm and cozy home to enjoy and parents who willingly and lovingly help them do school work from home.
Yesterday, we drove through the packet pick-up line at their school to retrieve their work and ChromeBooks from their teachers. The sadness in the teachers’ eyes was apparent. My boys go to an amazing school where the joy for everyone is evident. As we drove away, my kiddos were very quiet. When I looked in the rearview mirror, they looked solemn, surely thinking about all that’s happening to our once-safe world. We drove straight to a vacant ballfield and sat on the bleachers to look through their packets and do a little work.
I’ve always been upfront with my boys, so as they asked questions, I tried to answer the best I knew how. I researched a little further and found some tips and suggestions we can all use.
Tips for parents during the COVID-19 pandemic
1). Kids worry more when kept in the dark: Trying to avoid the topic will make kids worry more. Be factual and clear with answers. Hearing information from their parents is more reassuring than getting input from their friends or the news.
2). Be developmentally appropriate: Consider your child’s age and developmental level when talking to them about the coronavirus. Also, don’t volunteer too much information. Let your child’s questions guide you.
3). Deal with your own anxiety: For parents to maintain strength for our kids, we have to deal with our own anxiety over this pandemic. Whether that’s exercising, venting to a friend, crying or punching a pillow, try and manage your own stress separate from dealing with your child’s stress.
4). Keep a reassuring attitude: Kids can’t help it, but they are very egocentric. They will certainly ask if they are going to catch it. Make sure children know how rare the coronavirus is and they are not in the high risk category to suffer several from it.
5). Focus on what you’re doing to stay safe: Children feel empowered when they know what to do stay safe. Even if it’s something as simple as washing their hands. In this case, that will go a long way to keep them healthy. Also let them know what their family as a whole is doing to stay safe because children also like to feel part of the team.
6). Maintain structure and routine: Everyone thrives off routine, but especially kids. During this confusing time, try and keep a normal routine as much as possible. Put children to bed at the same time, eat regular meals, have designated time for school work, play, electronics, etc. Create a daily plan. This will do wonders for everyone!
7). Capitalize on the situation: With everything canceled, families are together more and parents are offered more authentic time with their children. We should use this to our advantage. Play board games, watch movies, go on a walk and do other things that “normal” life can often restrict.
This is a pivotal transition year for my fifth grader. He had a D.C. trip planned with his entire grade and an AIG space camp trip, a soccer season to begin, a running club to enjoy and a lead role in Mary Poppins Jr. He’s accepted all of this with maturity and understanding. I’m sure a lot of other parents are seeing the same with their children. Sometimes we can learn from them.
Every generation has one or more monumental events that define their childhood. For some, it was JFK’s assination. For others, it was the Challenger explosion or 9/11. But these events, while horribly tragic, only affected a small part of the world. The COVID-19 pandemic is much different and scarier and will most certainly be the defining historical event for this generation of kids. I have no idea what the coming weeks and months will look like, but I do know my two boys mean the world to me and I will do everything to make this easier on them. When the world feels dark, we must seek out the light.