The world we are in is uncharted … our "new normal" … and we as adults are learning moment to moment how to deal with the information and changes that come to us as a result of the Coronavirus, COVID-19.
We love our culture, our gracious spirited city, and appreciate the relationships we have. Yet today, we are told not to be too close, not to hug, not to socialize in groups as we are so accustomed to doing, and that our schools – which serve as foundations in the life of a child – must close their doors.
These things weigh heavy on us as adults and on our perceptive “tuned in” children, who detect our facial expressions, body language and tone of voice, and then wonder what is happening in our world and to their world.
So, what are some things you can do to help your child cope during this time?
First, keeping your anxiety in check is key. Then, consider the age of your child and find out what they know about Coronavirus. We want to ensure they know the facts. Many times children hear tidbits of information here and there and put something together that just isn’t true.
You can ask them, “What have you heard about Coronavirus?” or “What do you know about it?” This gives them a chance to be heard and express themselves. It allows you to make sure they have accurate information, and from you, a parent or guardian they trust.
Don't dismiss your child's fears.
Life can be scary, and children need to know there will always be someone there to take care of them and help them to be safe. Bedtime hugs, kisses and stories are more important now than ever. If you don't have new children's books, make something up – be creative and invent a "new normal" on your terms.
Create your own "new normal."
Establish a routine for your child and let them share their thoughts on how that might work: a time to go to bed; time to be “at school”; let them (with you) make a daily schedule and post it on the fridge or a chalkboard or in their room; help them find security and continuity in having a plan, any plan.
Encourage them to explore their feelings and to express them; listen to their worries and let them know their feelings are real and are “okay.”
Develop strategies to cope.
Help your child to find strategies to help them cope; drawing with music in the background, breathing exercises, journaling about their day, exercise (especially to release extra energy they may have from staying home), writing a kind letter to someone like an elderly neighbor, or performing an act of kindness for someone.
Learning these life skills at a young age is great practice in developing a healthy “toolset” of coping strategies to deal with whatever uncertainties life may bring in the future and maintain a healthy, resilient outlook.
Now breathe. Inhale. Exhale.