We are all having to navigate sticky conversations with our children right now. Living during a global pandemic has upended lives and our kids often wonder why things are different. Why we're doing what we're doing. The following will offer guidance for those of you who have a family member or loved one who's been diagnosed with COVID-19 and a young child who is affected.
- To explain, keep it simple! For example, "Daddy is a little sick right now. When people are sick, they need to rest. When people are sick, we need to give them space so that we don't get sick, too," and "Our family is doing X to keep everyone healthy right now." Keep conversations simple and follow your child's lead. Kids typically digest big things in little bites. Your child might seem totally satisfied with a few details to start but will come back a day later to hear the same explanation again and/or to build upon their understanding. So,
- Keep the lines of communication open: Let your child know, "You can always come to me to talk more about that, later on, if you want."
- Let your child have their feelings, whatever they may be. It is VERY healthy for children to express their feelings and they need the time and space to move through the feeling and get to the other side of it. It's NOT best for parents to try to "fix" those feelings, no matter how uncomfortable we feel when our kids are hurting. Let your child have their feeling and help identify it. For example, "Are you feeling worried/sad/scared about that? Yeah, I feel sad that we can't see Auntie Hazel right now, too."
- Validate the feeling by simply nodding your head, being present with your child and/or restating what they've said. For example, "You feel angry at Grandma for not coming over. I understand that."
- DON'T dismiss things or try to sweep the issue under a rug. For example, parents like to say to their kids: "Don't worry, it's okay," or "You don't need to worry about that." Kids do worry and they know when things are concerning. If we don't make space for their feelings, then they are left to make sense of it all on their own. So, lean in and embrace the discussion.
- And then it IS good to reassure your child. "Our family is strong. We will get through this. After Daddy gets lots of rest, he should feel better."
Below is a link to a printable story to read with your child about coping with a situation like this one.