We have gone beyond the “What are the coronavirus symptoms?” to “When will it be over, and when can I see my friends.”
When I was a little girl driving to the cottage with my parents and my 3 brothers, the drive seemed so long that every half hour or so, I’d ask, “Are we there yet?” I wasn’t asking about time, but I was letting my parents know that I was frustrated with waiting. By now, many kids know about what a virus is and how to physically protect yourself from being sick. But what they do not know is how to cope with a future that has so many unknowns. They are feeling anxious, scared, and powerless.
What is a parent to do to help their young children cope with their negative emotions?
Stress is Expressed in Many Forms: The first step is to recognize that kids have these feelings. Secondly, there are things that you can do to alleviate some of the stress of the situation. You may not recognize that more frequent tantrums, whiny behavior, or uncooperativeness are not simply bad behavior but signs of stress. Once you understand how your kids are feeling, you can help them through this difficult time.
You Are Safe: Assure your kids that they are safe. You may have done this months ago, but your kids need to hear it again. We have doctors and scientists who are looking for ways to stop the coronavirus. It may take a while, but mom and dad are confident that the pandemic will be over.
Everyone is doing their Part: Review how everyone is doing their part to protect the family. Perhaps mom is working from home, so she won’t be in contact with any germs. Dad has special clothing and gear to protect him from getting sick when he is at work delivering packages. Grandma and Grandpa visit using the tablet. Everyone is helping to keep everybody safe. When we go shopping everyone wears a mask. At home, we are washing our hands as soon as we arrive back from the store. We all try to stay healthy by getting plenty of rest and eating nutritious food. Your kids are helping by using a tissue whenever they feel like sneezing or coughing. We are all in this together.
Look for Helpers in your World: “Aundi Kolber is a licensed professional counselor and parent who advises, “There are times we’re going to feel sad, there are times we’re going to feel scared. If we can lean into our feelings knowing that there are people who really care about others — who are modeling what Mister Rogers talked about — it can actually make it more possible for us to fully feel the sad or scared feeling.” according to PBS. And when we feel supported, we can process these negative emotions. It is possible to stimulate behavioral change. Unlike most adults, kids need help to understand and manage these emotions. She is talking about finding the helpers in our society such as farmers, delivery workers, nurses, doctors, teachers, neighbors, and police. All of these people are keeping us safe.
Take Action: Use special storybooks to support your discussions. Several storybooks focus on the emotional fallout of this crisis. Some are very explicitly linked to the coronavirus, while others are more symbolic. However, they do address the feelings that arise when kids and adults are faced with unpredictable times.
Now, it is time to stop explaining the facts. Instead, you need to concentrate on how your kids feel and how everyone can do their part. Check out these books to assist you.
Caillou is at his daycare when he discovers that he will be safest from the coronavirus symptoms by staying home. When he is at home, he finds that even though his day is different, he can still have fun. Technology helps him solve his lonely feelings.
Paula and her mother find a solution to all of the negative feelings surrounding the recent pandemic. Paula is very sad that she cannot see her friends, and she wishes she could interact with her parents, who are now staying at home but are working. She finds what it is like to be patient by growing a sunflower from a seed. Waiting is all part of life. You may want to start growing a sunflower with your child to plant a seed of hope in their heart.
There is no mention of the current situation in this story, but the feelings about a crisis are vividly portrayed. The story is told as an analogy of the pandemic – with lines representing people and the spot as a solution. In the end, there is an optimistic view of the future, now that everything has changed. Parents and teachers will be happy to learn that the author has provided some lesson plans to maximize the reading of the book. Check out the website.
The narrator of the story is an unhappy bird who is confused about the changes that are happening as a result of a pandemic. It will help your kids acknowledge their feelings and can be a conversation starter for what everyone in the family is feeling in this uncertain time. The book is written to reassure all children that this will not last forever.
The first part of the book documents the sense of loss and hopelessness that we all feel at this time of the pandemic. It will open up the conversation between you and your kids so that they can express their feelings, too. Yet not all is lost as it is clear that the situation will not last forever.
In this story, the perspective is from the family dog’s viewpoint. So, the story takes one step back from reality. The family pet’s confusion about the situation is well portrayed. The first part of the book is in story format, and the back of the book includes information for parents. You will feel comfortable in answering questions that your kids will ask.