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COVID-19: How to have reassuring conversations with kids

Check in on how your child is feeling and acknowledge and address their worries rather than ignore them.

April 25, 2020 6:40:20 pm
parenting, coronavirus Asking ourselves and our children to not respond emotionally is impossible. (Source: Getty Images)

By Ashwini KR, Manisha Ninan & Tanusree Durairaj

The COVID-19 is on all our minds and we cannot deny how it has disrupted our routines. This disruption is not affecting just our students or families, but also the larger community that we live in. Anxiety is a normal, productive and valuable emotional response to the perception of threat. It is important to remember our children are looking to us for reassurance and cues on how to react and respond. An emotional response is normal. Asking ourselves and our children to not respond emotionally is impossible. We are working to address our own anxiety/fear and are helping our children do the same. Here are some strategies to build resilience, and have reassuring conversations with kids:

Anxiety is normal: It’s okay to show anxiety or fear; your child will pick up on this and also learn that this is a normal response. Changes to the environment and routines can create unease. Having calm, panic-free discussions can ease emotions around these changes. Check how your child is feeling and acknowledge and address their worries rather than ignore them. Keep in mind it’s okay to say ‘I don’t know’.

Stick to the facts: It is important to have thoughtful conversations regarding the COVID-19 to distill anxiety, worry or fear. Consider your child’s age, processing, and emotions to determine how to frame these conversations to ensure they understand. Check on what your child is thinking and address their worries. Discuss that not everything they hear or see is real. It can also be comforting to be reminded that doctors around the world are looking for ways to address the COVID-19 and highlight positive news as well.

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Consider media consumption: When looking online, consider the source and fact-check to prevent fake news, and think before you share. Be mindful of how much media you are checking and minimise how often you are reading stories. Try to keep a healthy balance (both online and offline) in your daily routines and lifestyle.

Read| Children and coronavirus: Interview with paediatrician Dr Mahesh Balsekar

Eliminate stigma: It is important to be aware of how the COVID-19 crisis is explained to your children to avoid any person/group being blamed and also to communicate that if someone has a fever or cough, it does not mean this person has the COVID-19 infection.

Implement strategies: It is possible to look at anxiety as a guide rather than a threat. Coping strategies can include: Any activity or interest such as singing, dancing, reading, drawing, music, Netflix/movies, creating a gratitude list, meditation, yoga, coloring, exercise, cooking/baking, talking to a friend or family member via social media, or doing other activities that are fun or give you joy and make you feel good. If you notice your child is still worried or anxious, be assured that this is a normal reaction, continue conversations and provide care for your child. If you find that additional support is needed, please reach out to counselors via email who can refer you to experts and schedule time on the internet with you or your child, to make a plan on how to support them during this time.

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Kids must have space to share fears: It’s natural for kids to worry. Could I be next? Could that happen to me? Let your child know that kids don’t seem to get as sick as adults. Let them know they can always come to you for answers or to talk about what scares them.

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Help kids feel in control: Ensure your child does things that make them feel in control. Don’t forget basics like teaching them that they need good sleep and need to wash their hands well to help them stay strong and healthy. Explain that such activity helps stop viruses from spreading to others. Be a good role model and let your kids see you doing things that they can emulate. And good hand-washing is one of the most important if not the most important activity to handle COVID-19.

In conclusion, it can be said that as parents you have to remain calm and reassuring. Remember always that children will react to both what you say and how you say it. They will pick up cues from the conversations you have with them and with others. This imitation of adult talk and behaviour has to be handled very carefully as there should be no spread of negativity and misinformation. The effort always has to be towards building a positive and reassuring ambience.

(The authors are part of the the counselling team, Canadian International School.)

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