There’s no doubt that 2020 was ‘the year that was’. With all the unknowns across the world, we were all forced to adapt to circumstances that a majority of us have never experienced before. And that also meant our kids had to do the same.
Educating kids around the complexities of COVID-19 is tricky, but it’s important to understand that obsessing about the virus only further spreads anxiety – especially in kids where these contexts aren’t well-understood.
As 2021 kicks into gear, instead of letting ourselves become infected by fear, let's take constructive action to keep ourselves and our families safe while COVID-19 still lingers. Let's take responsibility for our emotional reactions as well.
How to tell your child about COVID-19
It’s never too late to help your child understand the risks and precautions around COVID-19, as well as personal hygiene. The truth is that life is always full of uncertainty and risk, and the ‘new normal’ is here to stay.
As parents, it's even more crucial that we manage our own fear responses. Children are very sensitive to our emotions, so it's our responsibility as grownups to communicate to our kids that we can, and will, keep them safe.
Discussing the global pandemic with your child doesn’t have to be as overwhelming as it may seem. Here are a few tips to help you kick the conversation off:
First, find out what they already know or It’s likely they’ve heard about these happenings at school or as ‘Chinese whispers’.
Let your child know you are someone they can talk to about COVID-19. Ensure they feel comfortable asking you any questions they may have.
Show that you care and understand, and normalise their feelings. (“I understand why you think that” or “It makes sense that you are worried about COVID-19.”)
Be ready with information and answers that are true and appropriate for your child’s age – ensure these remain consistent.
Also, be ready to explain things like social distancing. Saying things like “Social distancing means that we try to keep a safe space between people if we go out. We are careful about crowds and what we touch” is an ideal path to take.
Tell them why it’s important to be hygienic and safe. If they ask more questions, be willing to answer them honestly, but appropriately.
Check in with them over time to see if their emotions and thoughts about the situation have changed. Kids are exposed to plenty of opinions and influence, so it’s worth checking out if these are coming into play.
See if they understand why is COVID-19 is such a threat. If they don’t, double-check that they do acknowledge the importance of social distancing, at the least.
Remember that while we’re also feeling the burden of the unknowns as adults, kids are feeling that tenfold. There’s a lot of uncertainty going on in the world right now – be your children’s sense of clarity and security when they need it most.