Children are often more perceptive than most adults may give them credit for; they may be wondering why their mom and/or dad are home more, why they aren’t in school or why their routine has changed, or why they can’t go see their friends or even leave the house. It’s essential to tackle these questions head-on and in a manner that satisfies their curiosity and helps to put their mind at ease.
Talking to your children may require that you self-reflect about your concerns and feelings. Be aware that you also may be projecting your insecurities or anxieties on to your children and recognize that you may also need additional support or guidance during this time. Also, make sure that you do your research first so that you can adequately answer any questions that may come up.
Listen and Teach
Ask your child what they already know or have heard about the virus. Be sure to dispel any myths and elaborate on critical pieces of information like the importance of handwashing. It’s also important to talk to your children in a manner that is appropriate for their age/ level of development. Also, try putting things in terms that they can relate to or understand. It’s important to teach but not to overwhelm.
Validate Their Feelings
Your child may be confused, scared, or anxious about the changes they are experiencing. It’s important not to dismiss their feelings and to reassure them during this time that what they are feeling is very reasonable. Don’t overcommit or overpromise on things that you may not have control over to solely help them feel better – it’s important to be reassuring but also realistic.
Create a New Routine, and then keep it Consistent
Children thrive on stability and knowing what to expect. Help give them that consistency by developing a new routine for them. For example, create a daily schedule that outlines their activities for the day. Setting up a plan in case things suddenly change or take longer than expected can also help provide them with further assurance moving forward. Have your child get involved in the planning process so they can feel empowered and confident moving forward.
Many people are feeling stress and anxiety during this uncertain time, and children are no exception. The mental health experts at CFIR can help you navigate how to have these meaningful discussions with your children. Clinicians at CFIR are offering secure video and teletherapy sessions during this time to ensure continuity of care. Please reach out if you would like to have a safe, confidential session from the comfort of your own home.
Dr. Brianna Jaris, C.Psych. is a clinical psychologist at CFIR. She has extensive experience in psychological assessment and diagnosis and the treatment of a wide range of psychological issues, including trauma, depression, anxiety. She is currently the head of CFIR’s Trauma and PTSD service.