By Melissa Hyder, M.A., School Counselor
The other day my son said to me, “Mom, I am so scared that Enzo (our dog) is going to die. I do not want him to die. I want him to live forever. Can we do everything we can to keep him alive, mom, please? Can we take him to the vet, can we clean every part of our house, can we do everything to let him live a little bit longer?”
Our dog, Enzo, is 6 months old and he is not sick. I knew that my son’s questions were part of how he was processing the Coronavirus. So, I took his cue, and we sat there and talked. Together we tried to make sense of his new understanding of the world and how that relates to him.
While my son asked me questions, children might not always have the words to express the discomfort they are feeling. It might come out in other ways, like being extra cranky, or weepy, or in a lack of motivation. They might be extra tired and simply not know why. We have seen these traits in our home too. Helping our children make sense of their world is important. It doesn’t mean we have to explain every detail, but it is important to be honest and open. Children are prone to worry when they don’t know what is going on.
Here are a few helpful tips to think about as you support your children through this strange time.
- Be okay with not having all the answers – As parents we can feel pressure to need to have everything figured out. With the uncertainty of this pandemic, there is simply no way we can have the answers. It’s okay to share with your child that you don’t know.
- Let your child lead – Having a conversation with your children shouldn’t be something that is forced. Be ready to talk when they are ready to talk.
- Focus on ways you are staying safe – Remind children that we are staying home, washing our hands, and wearing masks all to help keep other people safe can. It can be empowering for them to know their actions are making a difference.
- Look for the positive – Mr. Rogers says, “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’” Helping our children focus their attention on ways people are making a difference is encouraging.
- Provide healthy ways to cope – Going for a bike ride, thinking happy thoughts, building a comfort box, stretching, and reading a book are all ways to feel better. When your child is feeling down, having them choose a positive activity from this “Ways to Feel Better” document.
- Process your own feelings – As you continue to go through this difficult time, you need support and time to process for yourself. Don’t feel pressure to talk to your children when you are in a tough place.
Helping your child process their uncomfortable feelings can be an empowering experience for you both, and can help you connect. Continue to check my ClassDojo page and our Child’s Voice google drive for additional resources to help as we continue to deal with this pandemic.