Explaining the Pandemic to Children: An Overview
This article has been written in collaboration with Sanjana Khanna, a counseling psychologist and trainer. You can see more of her work here
As of now, COVID-19 has spread far and wide across our country and we, as fully grown adults aren’t as well informed about the outbreak as we’d like to be, let alone the children. A barrage of information about COVID-19 across social media has made it difficult for adults and children alike to get back to normalcy and face the situation head on.
Hence, as a parent it is important to understand the following parameters to help your kids tide over the pandemic:
1. What should I be explaining to my kids?
Make sure to separate the facts from the fiction, amongst all the information you may have at your disposal. Try to address your children’s queries and curiosities in a rational way. Sort out their confusion regarding schools being shut, reason with them calmly when they ask you why they can’t go out to play or meet their grandparents.
2. What is the ideal time to address their concerns?
It has been proven in various studies that having a serious discussion just before sleeping may affect the quality of sleep and could lead to intrusive thoughts in the form of nightmares. Therefore, having such discussions during the calm of the morning or during the day would be ideal.
3. How should I keep the conversation easy and pleasant?
Undoubtedly, most kids are already confused and on tenterhooks in such times. Calming them down, providing them with support, and maintaining a positive attitude along with a fun routine should suffice to quell their irritability and anxiety.
Now, let us look at a few questions that parents may find difficult to handle or find the answers to:
Q1. ‘Why am I not going to school or to the playground to meet my friends?’
To this, you could respond by telling them about the virus and its communicability. Explain to them that its necessary to maintain a distance from people in these times as the virus spreads easily. Reaffirm that you are maintaining a distance from your family and friends as well and reiterate the effectiveness of such measures to them.
Q2. ‘Will I get sick?’
To answer this, you must be straightforward and honest with your child. Let them know that they may fall sick too if they do not take proper measures. Reassure them that you will be there to take care of them if anything untoward happens.
Some tips that you can follow amidst the pandemic include:
1. Building a bond with your child
During these uncertain times, your child needs your support and time. They should know that you are there to listen to their worries and fears. This is an ideal opportunity to forge deeper bonds with your children and get to know them better as individuals.
2. Be receptive to their queries
Talk to them and respond to their queries and concerns. Sometimes, its best to avoid topics or alarming facts and figures that might paint an unrealistic picture or cause unease. Talk to them about what you feel is vital for them to know.
3. Be mindful of the news-
Kids respond the most to audio visual cues, especially though electronic media. Try to be mindful about what is being talk about, watched or heard in the house.
4. Correct them by providing authentic details-
There is a plethora of information available on the internet and on news channels as well, and chances are that some of the information may not be completely true. Try to provide them with authentic information from reliable sources
5. Adopting a positive attitude
In such trying times, our own mental health should be a priority. Self-care and a positive outlook are contagious as children imitate their elders. So, practice what you preach by setting a good example.
6. Provide reassurance with confidence
Comforting them with words of reassurance can provide a ray of hope to them in such trying times. Brushing their concerns under the carpet may, however, aggravate their feelings of fear and anxiety. Therefore, providing them with support amidst uncertainty is a step in the right direction.
7. Practice maintaining good hygiene practices
Teach them various ways to practice healthy habits using stories or role plays. Incorporate habits like regular washing and sanitizing into their daily routine and let them know the reasons for doing so.
8. Setting rules and boundaries together
It is easier to be firm with children while setting rules, however it is a much more daunting task with teenagers. Have a heart-to-heart conversation with your teenager about the behaviour that is expected of them, and simultaneously give them space to maintain healthy digital relationships with their peers.
9. Building healthy habits
Set your own routine and set healthy habits that will encourage a smooth transition towards the post pandemic phase. Waking up on time, getting ready for the day, eating healthy foods, not skipping meals and exercising are a few of the healthy habits that you can cultivate.
Children respond the best when they are shown love and kindness with dollops of patience. It is okay to not feel completely okay all the time, and worry about your child and your family. However, by maintaining a positive attitude and by incorporating good behaviour patterns and coping strategies, you will be able to win this battle together.
- by Sanjana Khanna Edited by - Anusha Taarinie Jha
Graphic by - Vanshita Shokeen