More than what you say, children pay attention to how you say things. You can tell them that everything is going to be okay, but they will pick up on your anxiety and get a very different message if you are visibly upset during these conversations. This is true both of the conversations you have with them and the conversations you have around them. Keep your demeanor calm and reassuring when discussing the disease with them or in front of them.
Most everyone’s daily life is affected by the current crisis, which means that you might be dealing with working from home, being an essential worker, or being out of work currently. With all that on your plate, your child may sense that you are overwhelmed and therefore, not bring up what is on their mind.
Make sure your child knows that you are here to listen. Make a point to ask them how they are feeling and if they have any questions. Just knowing that you are there for them can be grounding for them.
There’s a lot of misinformation being spread about COVID-19, and in all likelihood, your child is hearing some of these rumors. Make sure to communicate information that you know is accurate from reliable sources. Pay attention to what your child is seeing or hearing on TV or online.
Provide your child with age-appropriate, truthful information. It doesn’t help your child to hide the truth. Saying things like, “I promise we won’t get sick” or “This will all be over next week” are not helpful because you can’t guarantee either. Being dishonest interferes with your child’s ability to trust you. There is a lot we can’t be sure about right now, and there is nothing wrong with saying, “I don’t know.”
Validate Their Feelings
Your child is probably feeling a range of emotions. It’s important to hold space for whatever they are experiencing. It’s not helpful to dismiss or minimize their feelings. For example, when your child says that they are worried, instead of telling them not to worry, say, “I’m sorry you’re feeling worried. I’m worried too. What can we do to make ourselves feel better?”
Reduce Screen Time
Spending too much time in front of screens can cause more anxiety for the whole family, as taking in a lot of information on one topic can be stressful. Consider limiting screen time for now.