The COVID-19 crisis has affected life as we all know it. The entire world is hunkering down to do their best to slow the spread and impact of COVID-19. As a result of these extreme measures, everyone’s world and sense of normalcy has evaporated. Everyone is struggling to stay informed, engage in safe practices, figures out logistics of work and schedules, remain calm, and still try to be a good parent. Parenting is a difficult job under the best of circumstances, with these added stressors many parents are finding themselves with very little fuel left in the tank for parenting demands.
Children and adolescents, just like adults, thrive on routine and schedules. Just as our lives have been upended, so has our kids. They are struggling to adapt as best they can, and some are doing it with more grace than others. Many parents are finding that they are at a loss for words when it comes to trying to explain this crisis to their children. It might not be quite as bad as talking to your kids about sex and drugs, but it is not much easier. What follows are some tips and suggestions for handling and talking to your kids about the COVID crisis.
- Normalize Feelings: It’s important to have our feelings validated by others. We all seek this out and it holds true for your children as well. Regardless of age, your children need to hear that it is normal and ok for them to feel scared, frustrated, sad, overwhelmed and disappointed. If you can share and express your own feelings in a healthy and controlled manner, it can be very affirming and validating for your kids to know that you are having a lot of the same feelings they are. If you have found good strategies for managing your own feelings, let your kids know how you are coping with your own emotions. Role modeling is always crucial and kids are looking for help in how to cope with this. Don’t be afraid to spell things out and coach your kids on ways to manage feelings.
- Share Information: As the saying goes, “knowledge is power”. Often the fear of the unknown is far scarier than reality itself. Here is where it will be important to share information at a developmentally appropriate level. Young children understand about germs and the importance of being clean to avoid them. Explanations at this level will be more understandable for them. Middle and high school kids can handle the truth and facts. They have probably read or heard various things from peers. For them, you might ask what they have heard about COVID and work to correct misinformation, misinterpretation, or sensationalized information. It’s important for us, and them, to keep things accurate. This keeps our irrational minds from creating undue anxiety and worry. Also, remember that you don’t have to have all the answers, kids will appreciate just being able to talk about things.
- Regular Check Ins: For years we have heard about the importance of family dinners as a time to check-in and connect. Unfortunately, normal life is filled with barriers, obstacles, multiple activities, or commitments that keep family dinners from happening as much as we would like. If there might be one good thing coming from these stay at home orders, is that it does present a greater opportunity to connect and spend time together. Use mealtime as a platform and venue to check in with kids in general, but also about the COVID crisis and developments that are occurring.
- Find a Technology Balance: When it comes to little kids, there is always the temptation to let kids watch a movie or play some video games so we can get a break or get some of our own stuff done. In these stressful times, it is even more tempting to rely on technology to keep kids occupied. Just be careful to not be overly reliant on this babysitter. Kids still need to play with toys, spend time with you, and have projects to do. With teens, it’s important to remember that this is the primary way they connect with peers and friends. For them, it may not be a bad idea to encourage them to schedule online hangouts or host an online game night, so they get time to spend with their friends. That said, make sure they unplug as well.
Hopefully, these suggestions will provide some direction and guidelines for talking with your kids during and about the COVID-19 crisis. If you are concerned about how you or your kids are coping and would like to meet face to face, or via telehealth, with one of our psychologists or psychiatrists about treatment options, please call us now at 763-416-4167, or request an appointment on our website: WWW.IPC-MN.COM so we can sit down with you and complete thorough assessment and help you develop a plan of action that will work for you. Life is too short to be unhappy. Find the peace of mind you deserve.
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