The unknown … it can be an unsettling reality, yet one we navigate at some level every day. Today, in our world, we are faced with several unknowns: the ability of nations to co-exist in peace, the issues upcoming leadership for our nation will take on or the impacts of the coronavirus.
Some of these unknowns can be particularly concerning for children who may hear lots of versions of worries from friends or school mates, social media or seemingly excessive news coverage and from listening to the important adults in their lives.
Children need the help of their parents and caregivers to discern the level of concern to place on significant events (and not only the events in the news), to make knowns from the unknowns as well as to help kids not feel helpless in big events.
Currently, headlines are filled with coronavirus updates. This is the attempt of larger organizations to make knowns for us so we do not get lost in the unknowns. Since children take many of their cues from their parents, we can first help our children by bringing them our calm presence.
If you are tempted to have anxiety over what impacts you may experience because of the coronavirus, find your supports first. This might include minimizing news and media exposure and giving yourself a half-hour a day to read the most current reports from a trusted source such as the Center for Disease Control (CDC) or the World Health Organization (WHO).
When anxious thoughts come into your mind throughout the day, jot them down or save them in an imaginal container and postpone your worries for a designated worry-time that you establish in your day. Maybe it’s a half-hour next to the time you give yourself to be updated on the facts? Remember to breathe evenly and deeply. Prioritize your and your family’s self-care (such as sleep, nature, exercise, nutrition, laughter, less stress and business, quality time with safe people) and self-soothing (such as comforts of favorite music, candles or lovely smells, baths or massage, sunshine, snuggling pets and people).
As you’ve taken care of you, also institute the reasonable precautions of handwashing (for the duration of the A, B, C song or two Happy Birthday songs), or use of alcohol-based hand sanitizer often; disinfecting touched surfaces often; and avoiding illness exposure by keeping a safe social distance from others, covering coughs and sneezes with elbow, avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands and use facial tissues if need to pick. If you have difficulty breathing, a fever or a cough, seek medical partnership right away and help to not spread any cold or flu bug by staying home and keeping children at home if you’re symptomatic.
Don’t lose a moment, the here and the now, with a loved one by letting your mind run away in fear – remind yourself of what you have already done to take care of yourself and to best navigate all that is in your control.
Now we are ready to help our children! We can help children first by initiating conversations with our kids, asking what they’ve heard, how they feel about what is going on – that could be happenings in our world, state, city, school or family – and seeing what questions may be tucked away inside of them.
We want to help our children experience us as a safe place to bring questions, concerns, fears and even failures. Because of the unique influence parents and caregivers have on children, we are most often their trusted source (yes, even with teens) to provide comfort, promote emotional security and make knowns of the unknowns. Keep lines of communication open by initiating these talks often.
We help kids to not worry when we remind them of all we are doing to keep safe and by giving them the age-appropriate facts and information we have.
We help them not let their imaginations over inform them by validating and empathizing with their fears and then offering the reassurance of our care and factual reality checks.
We help the children in our lives to feel seen and valued by making it a priority to include them in these important discussions and times for understanding.
We empower our kids by helping them know things to do and choices they can make that will aid in feeling a sense of personal power and control, especially in difficult situations and therefore, they will feel safer.
We help children understand and manage what is in their control and what is outside of their control by giving them permission to not worry because someone else is worrying about this virus (the CDC and the WHO) so that we don’t have to.
And a fun fact to make one unknown, known … do you know why it is called “Corona” virus? Corona is Latin for crown. When looking at this virus under a microscope, it looks like a crown, with spikes ending in blobs poking out of it.
Here’s to staying hopeful and healthy, friends. Cheers!