At no time in your child’s life has the world ever been quite the way it is during the 2020 Coronavirus outbreak. Whether celebrating the surprise time off school, missing friends, or just wonder what is going on, your children have questions. Child and teen psychologists in Littleton know that the best communication with children needs to answer questions, provide reassurance, and at times be very honest. Here are some answers to help them understand and cope during these challenging times, broken down by age range.
Under Fives: The Preschool and Younger Crowd
For your very young child, less information is more. When talking to young children about disasters, keep communication short, simple, and reassuring. “We have to stay at home so people don’t get sick from the worst flu ever” or something similar is enough. Your child likely understands what it means to be sick; feel free to remind them about the last time they had a sore throat or cold. If they ask difficult questions about death, don’t lie. Promising that mommy, daddy, or grandparents won’t die is an empty reassurance and may not be true. Instead, focus on what you are doing to make it better—staying home, washing hands often, and covering your coughs. For a great visual demonstration of why soap is important, set up a demonstration using black pepper, water, and soap—see this viral post on a kindergarten teacher’s Instagram account for video!
Grade School: 6-11
Elementary school students are at a unique age where they can understand very well what is going on, but may have questions they are afraid to ask. Further, their lives are happily structured around routine, which you will need to help recreate. Think of an elementary school student’s day, marked by bells, guiding teachers, and friends—now think of how your home can become a similarly predictable environment during the “school day.” Many kids are still on Spring Break, which opens doors for permissive fun and tons of free time. But even the most fun-loving grade school kids will start seeking a routine—often in the form of “mom, I’m bored! Dad, there isn’t anything to do around here!” Find out what your elementary student’s school is doing during the outbreak and make it a part of your home life. Just like the youngest, keep communications simple and fear-free, but honest. Older children are more likely to be interested in reading the news themselves, or connecting facts to what they are learning in school. Make sure to help your child choose age-appropriate, accurate sources of information. Avoid personal blogs and opinion pieces and stick to public health sites for the most accurate information. Always remind your child that the adults have a plan in place to stay safe.
Middle and High School: 12-Adult
Your nearly grown-up child may seem to be handling this like an adult, but this is a scary situation with real repercussions. As schools close across the nation, seniors in high school are realizing they might miss out on once-in-a-lifetime fun events and worry about their prospects in college. Help your child to connect to the bigger picture and take action by searching for volunteer opportunities or other ways to actively help. Let them know it is okay to mourn for these experiences, no matter how trivial they may seem in the “grand scheme” and encourage them to stay involved with friends, family, and studies. Take old school traditions and creatively do these using social media.
For children and adults of all ages, don’t hesitate to open up and share feelings about the event. Avoid panic or drama, but it is okay to let your kids know that you are worried, frustrated, and, yes, even bored. Always share the ways that you manage these feelings , because your kids will be looking to you for advice! If you need additional support, child psychologists in Colorado are working hard to sanitize our in-person offices, as well as to provide telehealth support.