Talking to Our Children about Coronavirus

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In a modern age of constant contact and sensationalized news broadcasting, we, as parents, not only have to find ways to deal with our own feelings about scary news stories, but also the inevitability of our children’s encounters with them. The recent outbreak of COVID-19 (also known as the Coronavirus), is no exception.

COVID-19 is quickly threatening to significantly impact our day-to-day routines and decisions within our families and homes. So, how do we prepare our families and our children for these real and potential changes?

The answer to this question is complicated. If you are like me, you find yourself involuntarily inundated with news headlines that toggle between hysteria and dissociation. You will feel torn between the choice of becoming a “doomsday prepper” and taking a “worry when there’s reason to worry” approach.

In a situation where there are no clear right answers, anxiety thrives. This is why we absolutely must reflect on our own feelings before we begin to untangle our children’s feelings.

By processing your feelings first, you will be better prepared to respond to the questions and feelings that your child is experiencing, and to make the decisions that will best protect your family. And, you’ll be better prepared to communicate plans and any potential changes.

How to Prepare for the Conversation

Whether you say it or not, if you are highly anxious, your kids know it! Children take their emotional cues from their trusted adults. This means that your ability to manage your own anxiety will have significant implications for your children’s ability to do the same.

Taking care of ourselves is equivalent to the airline industry’s request that we put on our own oxygen mask first so that that we can then competently help our kids put on theirs. This might mean limiting our access to media coverage (you know those news pop ups on your phone?  You can turn those off!)

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