How can you build resilience and engage in reassuring conversations about COVID-19 with your kids? Read on for some tips.
By Carmelita Hampton, ES/MS Counselor and Brooke Rimondi, HS Counselor
Declared a public health emergency by the World Health Organization, the COVID-19 (coronavirus disease 2019) pandemic has caused uncertainty all over the world. For our students, this can lead to fear and worry; moreover, frequent cancellations of anticipated events can cause students to become easily disappointed. It is important during this time to remember that your children look to you for reassurance and cues on how to react and respond. Children may need extra attention or the opportunity to talk about their fears, concerns, and questions. It is vital to make time for your children so they know you are there to listen.
How can you support your child in this time of uncertainty? Check out the following strategies!
Remain positive and reassuring.
- As much as possible, it is important to keep yourself calm and your environment stable. Children will react to and follow your verbal and nonverbal behaviors, so if you show anxiety or fear, your child is likely to feel nervous and afraid too.
- An inconsistent environment or changes to routines can create unease. When unavoidable, however, having calm, panic-free, and intentional discussions with your children can ease their emotions around these changes.
- Instead of ignoring your child's worries, check in on how your child is feeling, and acknowledge and address their concerns.
- Whenever possible, avoid excessive blaming. Sometimes when tensions are high, we want to try and assign blame to someone. During this time, it is important to avoid stereotyping any person or group of people as being responsible for the virus.
- Try to find the positives in the face of all this upheaval. Examples of this might include not having to wear a uniform every day, or having extra time to spend with family.
Stick to the facts and be honest.
- Consider your child's age, processing, and emotions when looking at the facts to determine how to frame these conversations. Without factual information, children can imagine situations that are worse than reality, so it is important to keep them informed on a level they can understand.
- Share relevant information about how the virus spreads and measures we can take to keep ourselves safe. Children can be told that this disease is thought to be spread between people in close contact, especially when an infected person coughs or sneezes.
- Communicate honestly to help your child understand that not all people with fever or a cough have the virus.
- Reassure your child that Singapore is doing everything in its power to protect its people and that you are up to date on current information about this crisis. If your children have additional questions, take a look at the Singapore Ministry of Health website here.
Monitor media consumption.
- Limit your child's television viewing or access to information from the internet and social media. Be mindful of how much media you consume and minimize how often you check for information about this crisis.
- Constantly watching out for updates about the virus can increase anxiety, so try to avoid this. Instead, be intentional about maintaining a health balance (online and offline) in your daily routines and lifestyle.
- When looking online, consider the source and fact-check to guard against fake news.
- Think before you share. Remind your child that some stories on the internet about COVID-19 may be based on rumors or inaccurate information. To avoid anxiety, reiterate the factual information about this virus to your child.
Maintain a normal routine as best you can.
- Whenever possible, teachers are taking a creative approach to online learning. In addition to lessons and instructions posted during normal school hours, teachers are sharing collaborative learning opportunities for students to work on together.
- Encourage a regular schedule for your child's school day. This should include physical activity, extracurricular activity, and rest. If your child seems overwhelmed, do not push them to work harder; instead contact your child's school counselor for support.
Be creative and know your coping strategies.
- Take this time to discover new opportunities you and your child can experience together.
- Practice strategies for keeping calm or modifying your thinking to improve your outlook and wellbeing.
- Find out which coping strategies work for each family member. These can include positive self-talk, singing, dancing, reading, coloring or drawing, playing or listening to music, creating a gratitude list, meditating, yoga, exercise, cooking or baking, talking to a loved one, or doing other fun activities that can help you feel good.
What else can I do?
If you notice that your child is still anxious, be assured that this is a normal reaction, to be intentional about your response to the virus. If you find that additional help is needed, please reach out to your child's support system. This can include their teachers, principal, school counselor, or, if need be, an outside counseling resource.