Children might have more questions than you think about the changes they are experiencing, and it's important that we answer them. Staying home, not seeing our friends and family, and not being in school can give rise to these wonderings and leave children feeling unsettled.
To quote the famous Mr. Rogers, “Anything that's human is mentionable, and anything that is mentionable can be more manageable. When we can talk about our feelings, they become less overwhelming, less upsetting, and less scary.”
Dr. Tina Bryson, national speaker and co-author of "The Whole-Brain Child and No-Drama Discipline" shares that our brains are association machines, therefore we want our children to be making more positive associations about the world than negative ones. This will help to mitigate their anxieties as places start opening up and they eventually go back to school.
Use messages that are focused on safety versus danger. For example, parents can tell their children:
“We’re not seeing our friends or going to school because that’s the safe thing to do and that’s what keeps our bodies safe”
“You know when we get sick sometimes with a cold? It’s kind of like that. Most people who stay home and get rest, get all better. Even if we aren’t sick, it's helpful for us to stay home so that we don’t get germs from other people. This is how we help the people we love to stay healthy.”
The great news is that parents have tremendous power in shaping the meaning or the sense-making that their child has when it comes to what is happening right now in the world!
We can reassure our children that they are safe and protected by saying things like:
“You don’t need to worry. There are lots of doctors and nurses working hard to find a way to help keep everyone safe and to keep the germs from spreading. When that happens, we will see our friends again and go back to school. Luckily we already know something we can do to stay healthy!”
Adults and children alike often feel the most worried when they feel helpless, so it's important to reassure our little ones and ourselves of what we CAN do during this time. Go over the things you can do as a family to help stay healthy and be germ busters!
Most importantly, you as caretakers of your children must practice self-care. Self-care is an integral part of building healthy relationships with others, including our little ones. Practicing self-care is also an excellent way to model this for our children so that we teach them the importance of taking care of themselves.
Lastly, we encourage you to continue doing your great work and keep in mind that making your child feel safe, seen, soothed, and secure is what they will remember down the road.