At the moment, the phrase "coronavirus" seems to be global. We are thinking about it, talking about it, reading about it - our media space is filled. But it is not just adults that are surrounded, children too are affected by this global pandemic. In the Netherlands, and throughout many parts of the affected world, children find themselves suddenly being forced to practice social-distance, most notably by homeschooling. Suddenly their daily interactions with classmates are through Zoom, and their school desk is replaced with the kitchen table. This is a change for them, too. But how do we talk about this with children?
In a recent NRC article, "Hoe je met je kinderen over het coronavirus praat" (in English: how to talk to your kids about the coronavirus"), Professor Patti Valkenburg, along with several other scholars, offered tips for parents about how to talk with their children during this difficult time. Here are some of the tips:
- Answer your children's questions honestly. Try not to give too much unnecessary information, and be sensitive to the age of your children. Younger children will need more simplified information than teens, for example.
- Remember, that children do experience fear. Try not to ignore this fear. As Valkenburg notes, ignoring a fear is like ignoring a fever of 38 degrees - it can go away, but it can also get worse.
- If your children seems anxious, consider ways to actively tackle this by - for example - devising new home rituals such as "think of a new song every day for hand washing"
- Be aware of your own responses. Children can quickly take over the fear and panic of parent, so be mindful of your own reactions.
- If you are a parent of teens, be mindful of their media sources about coronavirus. Help them identify accurate information from official channels.
- Consider having some time withOUT media in the home. We all can use a healthy distance from the constant barrage of coronavirus messaging, kids too
- Identify fun activities that you can do as a family - for example, perhaps invite your children to come up with a list of fun activities that you can do together such as baking or arts-n-crafts
- Emphasize togetherness. Fred Rogers was famous for saying “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, "Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.” Can you and your children identify the helpers? Can you be the helpers? Maybe it's writing letters to thank the medical community for all of their efforts, or FaceTiming with members of the community who are particularly at-risk - such as elderly individuals. Help your children see how the community is coming together to help one another, and how s/he can be a part of this community in their own way.
For more tips, the NRC article is available here <in Dutch>. And to our entire CcaM community, we hope that you and your family are healthy and doing well.