Our children are hearing about the corona virus. Friends are joking about it; teachers are making extra efforts to be cautious; radio and tv are mentioning it; we are talking about it amongst ourselves. What they are hearing and how they are responding will be different for each child. A very imaginative seven year old boy came to my office explaining the virus like a gas that will come over the city and kill us all. He is terrified. Another teenage girl in my office is begging her parents to cancel their Spring Break plans because she is afraid.
Here are some general guidelines for talking with your kids.
1. Talk with them. Make a point to have an age-appropriate conversation.
2. Ask them what they have heard.
3. Tell them simple facts about the virus and what is happening.
4. Give them a plan for your family.
5. Point them to truth!
6. THEN do something different. Distraction is good in these times to help break the worry cycle.
For younger kids (3-4) - There are some pretty yucky germs going around right now. These germs may give us fever and a cough. If you start feeling yucky, tell mom or dad or the school nurse. We will give you some medicine and let the dr. know.
For kids (5-above) What have you been hearing about some pretty yucky germs going around right now? JUST LISTEN. These germs cause a sickness called Corona Virus. People who have this sickness may have a really high fever and cough a lot. If you start feeling yucky, tell mom or dad or the school nurse. We want to be careful to wash our hands and not drink after each other. If we do get sick, we will take some medicine and talk with a doctor. ASK: are you a little worried or concerned about getting sick? Validate: Yes, it is hard to think about being sick. Mom and Dad do not like being sick either. REMIND: when we are thinking about these things, we know that God loves us and is with us no matter what. God cares about our bodies. God is even bigger than sickness. You can tell Him you are worried and He will hear you. Pray for God to calm our hearts and protect our bodies.
Check in with your older children to hear what they are hearing from others. If you find that your child is not wanting to participate in regular activities, is wanting to talk about the virus non-stop or is not wanting to be away from you or home, call a counselor or someone who can be an outside voice to help encourage and work through this worry.
Lastly, as always, be mindful and cautious with what you are talking about and listening to in front of your children. Little ears pick up on words and tone even when we are unaware.
Stephanie Atkinson, LAPC, CALC