Talking to your children about COVID-19
Care To Change director offers tips on navigating the tough stuff
By Lindsay Doty
Why do I have to wear a mask? Am I going to get sick? Can I have a playdate? Am I ever going back to school? When can we see grandma? As the weeks roll along and COVID-19 continues to be part of our world, parents may struggle to answer the tough questions.
If you are a parent or caregiver and not sure how to navigate the ongoing topic, you’re not alone.
April Bordeau, director of Care to Change counseling center in Avon is a licensed clinical social worker and therapist with a focus on helping children and families overcome challenges. She offers some tips to help you tackle the subject.
Acknowledge emotions “The first best step is recognizing that we are all feeling a wide range of emotions at this time, and they aren’t wrong,” says April Bordeau. “We are not bad for feeling sad, mad, or confused. Our feelings are simply indicator lights for our lives, not steering wheels, and it’s a perfect time to model that with our kids.” She says to focus on what we can control, including our attitude and how we treat ourselves and others.
Model Behavior “As parents, we are modeling how we manage stressful situations. Whether we say it or not, they are watching what we do when we feel out of control,” says Bordeau. She says when kids ask questions, it is important to answer them but they don’t need daily updates, predictions, and discussions about things they can’t control.
Make them feel safe “They need assurance that you are there for them, that together, you’ll get through this, and that you are doing what you can to protect them,” said Bordeau. During this time, she stresses being aware of how we respond, what we talk about, what we watch and read, and what our routines are. “We can create healthy routines, and find creative ways to stay connected with loved ones during this time too. That is the best focus”.
Be honest but keep age in mind Discussing coronavirus with a preschooler is different than having a sit-down talk with a teenager so keep the discussion age-appropriate. “We recommend having honest conversations with kids, according to their developmental level of understanding, assuring them that as parents, you are making wise decisions to protect them. Developmentally appropriate, honest conversations without excessive and ongoing exposure is key.”
Avoid toxic influences “Really, there is no good that comes from combing through every story of despair. It creates internal distress and makes our bodies go into fight/flight/freeze mode,” she says. Avoid having open continuous, open conversations in front of kids. Avoid having the news playing in the background. Set aside time to address it, yes, but eliminate the excess.
Learn from your kids Since the arrival of COVID-19, she says parents have been telling her team that kids are much more resilient than they are during this time. “Kids have a way of reminding us to have fun, get outside, play games, and get creative. They have a lot of energy that needs put to good use, and parents are more wondering how they can learn from their kids!”
Ask for Help “Parents want to know more how they can cope during this time, and sometimes just reminding others that we are in this together, that there are many resources available for help, and that creative connection is key. Reaching out for help doesn’t mean we are weak. It means we are human.”
For more advice, head to https://www.caretochange.org/covid19/
April Bordeau is a licensed social worker, therapist, and director of Care to Change counseling center in Avon (Submitted Photo)