How many of us can remember sitting and watching TV when the Challenger disaster happened? Or maybe you were glued to the television as 9-11 was unfolded? You likely remember where you were and probably have no difficulty in recalling those images you saw on TV as a child or teenager.
It is so important to think about our children during times of upheaval, like those we experience in the midst of COVID-19 social distancing. Kids are amazingly perceptive and though they might seem to notice that the world has changed....they know that ‘something is up’. We are ALL, collectively, living through a crisis that will likely touch our lives on many different levels: socially as we stay at home, physically as we might get ill, emotionally as we struggle to wrap our minds and our lives around this ever-changing landscape, spiritually as we are not able to gather for communal worship, financially as many are losing their jobs, or even psychologically as social distancing and the anxiety are very stressful. In some way, your life will be impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, and the same is true for your child.
Here are a few tips and ideas of how to help your child through difficult times such as this pandemic.
Tips for helping children deal with coronavirus news
Listen and talk with your child
It is very important to take the time to check in with your children to see if they have questions, fears, or concerns. Just because they aren’t saying anything does not mean that they aren’t listening, wondering, watching and possibly worrying. Meet them where they are and simply ask “Hey, do you have any questions?” Let them know that it’s OK to ask and also that you might not know all of the answers but that you all are in this together. It is tempting to either try to shield a child or to over-explain. Instead, start by assessing what children understand about the situation by talking with them. Listen to their questions and worries.
Monitor watching the news
Carefully monitor and be mindful of the news and its impact on your child--and, honestly, its impact on you. We want to know what is happening, especially when we feel isolated and removed from the rest of the world. But it can be very frightening for young or sensitive children to see news that honestly can be frightening for adults.
Another helpful way to join with your children through this time is to find a way that children can help and brainstorm together with them. Uncontrollable circumstance are frightening and helping children find things they can do is a great way to give them a sense of meaning and control. Write letters to send to your local nursing home or sew masks for doctors’ offices. Get creative and use this as a chance to work together.
Keep checking in
Check with your child frequently to see how they are doing. It is also very important to check in with yourself to gauge how you are doing because kids are perceptive and sometimes we fail to realize how our stress really does impact our children. Use nighttime as a time to pray with your children. You can learn a great deal about what your child is processing by asking what or who they’d like to pray for each night.
Keep things as normal as possible
Take this time you have with your children to reassure them that though life feels different, you are still with them. Help your children to have a sense of normalcy in the midst of the changes by creating schedules together.
Use this time
How often have you said “we are just so busy”? How many times have you felt life’s pace was too hectic? You’ve been given time: time to spend time together. Create memories or traditions. The Israelites used times of great challenge for creating meaningful moments such as the Passover. They were together. They shared stories. They remembered. Maybe now us the perfect time to work in those boxes of photos you’ve put aside. Look through them with your children and remember. Read together. Laugh together. Find projects to work on together and have fun. Play games, do puzzles, watch movies, and play outside your house. Eat family meals together.
Give yourself and your children grace
This pandemic is something nobody can adequately plan nor prepare for. EVERYONE has been knocked out of their normal lives in some way and that is unsettling. Some are working from home while schools and daycares are closed, which becomes a very interesting experience for parents. You will get stressed and overwhelmed. On social media, you will see the amazing things others are doing with their families and you will feel inadequate. Give yourself grace. If you feel stressed, it’s OK. This is a stressful time, but also remember that it is a situation that will pass. Your child might need you to remind them of the same thing.
Take care of yourself and your children. Eat well and rest often. Wash your hands and follow the social-distancing guidelines. And God forbid that you or someone you love becomes ill, reach out for help. Ask others to pray. Don’t try to do everything alone, for your sake and for your children’s sake. Yes, we are to socially distance ourselves, but thanks to technology, we don’t have to be isolated. Reach out and be creative in ways to connect.
This pandemic will do a lot of things, but one thing it can hopefully teach us is that we are not alone. This is one of the most important gifts you can give your child: the assurance that no matter what happens in the life, that God is with them and that you are right beside them.
Tiffany Hollums is an author and clergy in the United Methodist Church. She has over 20 years of youth and/or children ministry experience, as well as, working in an urban ministry and treatment foster care. But the work she is most proud of being a mother, wife, daughter, sister and friend. When she is not crocheting blankets for loved ones as a ministry to those who are hurting or newborns, she can be found writing youth lessons and sipping espresso drinks! She lives in Austin with her husband, daughter, dogs, and family.