Our children will remember the panic and anxiety felt about coronavirus, more than any other detail, (Covid-19) in the family environment. Our children learn how to respond to stress and uncertainty by following our approaches and reactions to situations and events. Children, especially in preschool age, interpret events almost exclusively by looking at the behavior of their parents, as they are unable to make concrete sense of such situations. It’s up to us adults to lead our children to a more resilient emotional state rather than panic.
In an environment where coronavirus remains on the world agenda, where fear, anxiety and panic reign, we have some suggestions to keep in mind about how we should communicate with our children and how we can manage this process.
1. Calm Down: You Must First Manage Your Own Anxiety.
Deep Breathing: If you don’t know how to take a good diaphragmatic breath, now it’s time to learn. First, take a comfortable position, relax your body. Put a hand just above your abdomen and one hand on your chest. Take a deep breath. During this type of breathing, make sure only the hand on your abdomen moves. Exhale without opening your mouth too widely in a way to make a whistling sound. Deep breaths entering your diaphragm and slowly coming out of your mouth help activate our parasympathetic nervous system, which helps us calm down.
Walking: Increase your outdoor walking opportunities. You should get away from your computers and phones for a while and connect with nature. Make sure to take a 10-minute walk every day, away from technological gadgets.
Positive Inner Dialogue: How you talk to yourself has a big impact on your anxiety. We can characterize anxiety as an effect caused when a situation likely to create uncertainty emerges as we underestimate our individual coping skills. For the moment, you may not be able to do much to gain certainty, but you can focus on your coping skills. It will help you uncover your inner sources reminding yourself these statements: “I can handle it.“, “I can handle difficult situations.” and “I have the power to handle it“.
Self- Compassion: To be able to approach ourselves with goodwill, love, kindness, just as we would approach someone we love. “It’s not easy being an adult, being a parent at the moment. I’m aware of this situation, I accept it. It’s a stressful time and I’m doing my best in the process.”
2. Try to Avoid Constant Talk on Coronavirus in Your Child’s Presence. Be careful not to have conversations involving high anxiety or catastrophic scenarios, not to share any information you are unsure of. Constantly interacting with your mobile phones and computers in order to follow the agenda only increases your anxiety. We are currently facing an information pollution, much of the information being shared is the same; more uncertainty and more awaiting. Leaving yourself in contact with the triggers of uncertainty only increases your panic.
Our children often pay attention to what we’re talking about, and they notice that everyone around them is talking about Coronavirus. Pay attention to what you watch (news) and talk and, if possible, avoid mentioning about Coronavirus when your children are around. Give your children brief and true information on Coronavirus in a manner appropriate to her/his age, without letting her/him look for answers to her/his questions about the illness outside.
3. Verify Your Child’s Current Perception Of Reality. Our children can observe and feel that there are differences in their daily life routines compared to a few weeks ago. Express to your children that their perception of such kind of a change is right, according to their level of development. If you have people wearing masks in your neighborhood, you can tell them “You might have noticed people wearing mask. They protect people from germs.” Talk to your child in a clear, intelligible, simple language about coronavirus-oriented dialogues and other changes that he or she is aware of around him or her. “I hear people talking about ‘coronavirus’, too. It’s a new topic in our life and that’s why people mention about it so frequently. Have you noticed any other changes?”Let your child express what he or she has noticed, how he or she feels, and what worries him or her. Remember that you don’t have to convince your child that she/he should feel differently; instead, just listen, ask questions and express that you are always ready and there to listen to her/him.
4. Re-Establish Your Distinction.Boundaries and roles often make children feel safe. Tell your child that worrying about safety is something the parent will take up. Children with a more sensitive and anxious personality are particularly likely to worry during this period. While you should listen to their concerns, it’s important to express that to ensure safety is beyond their responsibilities within the family. You can approach your child with the following statements: “My work as a parent is to make sure everyone in our family is safe. This is my work and I take my work very seriously. Your work is to wash your hands, play games, do your homework and continue to have fun. Let’s both focus on our own business.”
5. Prepare Your Child For Misinformation.Your child will hear a lot of different things about Coronavirus It will be healthy to lead your child as follows: “You may hear things about Coronavirus that are not true. If you’re worried or curious about what you hear, please share it with me, and we’ll talk.”
6. Identify the Changes In Your Daily Routine. Explain to your child all the changes that have occurred in a descriptive way. Convey these changes with simple and clear phrases: “I’ll be working from home today and the coming days. Similarly, there will be days when you don’t go to school, but do often spend time at home. It might make you feel a little different.”Share with your child the daily activity plan you have created for days she/he will spend more time outside the school, and inform her/him of any cancelled or postponed school activities. Children develop and grow through routines and predictable situations. If your child’s school is closed, create a new program for her/him by drawing the framework of your new daily system. Do not feel compelled to create a system similar to the formal school system, including subsequent class sessions. Instead, with an awareness of the child’s daily routine expectations, you can present her/him with a written plan according to which she/he can predict her/his daily activities, or post this program on a home board.
7. Be Honest. Don’t lie or make promises. You can be open to your child about how difficult it’s for everyone to tolerate uncertainty. Your honest approach, with your loving and embracing attitude, will be a comforting resource for your child. “I’m not sure either. But I can promise you I’ll keep up with all developments. Sometimes we have to wait more to learn the truth. I know it’s not easy sometimes to wait. It’s not easy for any of us, but we’re together, all together.”
8. Devote Special Time To Have Fun. Being able to incorporate humor into life through various activities is one of the simplest, achievable means to feel safe. Remember it also when your children sleep. It’s just as important for you and your partner to take a break from full-time seriousness, to create enjoyable time slots, to make plans for a worrying agenda, to discuss, to support each other about your concerns. Try watching a comedy in the evening instead of talking about scenarios that lead to negative emotions and anxiety. Be assured, this is one of the best things you can do for yourself during a time period that particularly induce anxiety.