March 21, 2020
Everyone is together at home. That is a blessing, and a challenge—especially when it comes to talking to your children about this pandemic.
Here are five things to consider, with input from Clinical Psychologist Dr. Michael Horne of Virginia:
1. Stay Calm.
“Children take their cues from their parents,” says Dr. Horne. “When their parents are worried and highly stressed, they become more anxious.” I have certainly observed that in my own interactions with my children. Even when you don’t feel calm inside, you must try to exude calm with talking to your children.
“Let your younger kids play with their toys while you’re talking to them,” suggests Dr. Horne. “Having something else to focus on helps them stay calm while they listen.” That something else, of course, should not be TV.
2. Speaking of Television… Don’t.
News reports on television and radio can be terrifying for everyone right now, and kids pick up more than we realize. If you haven’t started the practice of getting your news “secretly”—that is, away from the eyes and ears of your children—you must start that practice now.
3. Pray Together as a Family.
“During this uncertain time, praying together as a family can comfort and encourage children,” suggests Dr. Horne. This is a perfect example of the truth that prayers are fruitful not only for their fruit, which our Lord gives in His time, but for the one praying. The prayers of God’s smallest children are powerful; enlist them as warriors in this fight!
4. Teach Kids How to Prevent the Spread of Germs.
“Knowing specific steps they can take to stay healthy is an important way for children to keep them from feeling out of control,” writes Dr. Horne.
Teach them the proper way to wash their hands (sing ‘Happy Birthday’ twice). Also teach them to wash hands after coming in from outside, after using the bathroom, and before and after meals. Show them how to sneeze or cough into their elbows rather than their hands or the air. Encourage them to keep their immune system strong by eating healthy foods, getting enough sleep and exercising.
5. Play and Laugh…Outside!
“Children under stress are more likely to start acting out if they aren’t given appropriate outlets for that stress,” advises Dr. Horne. “Being outdoors and exercising reduces anxiety, so if possible and safe, let them play outside.”
Here is a tip that might not appear on most coronavirus suggestion lists: laughter.
Dr. Horne says it is “most important” to give children the opportunity to laugh. “Healthy play and laughter are the best ways for children to process anxiety and build resiliency.”