How to help children cope with anxiety and answer their questions about the coronavirus pandemic

Since March 12, quarantine has been introduced in Ukraine. Accordingly, all schools and kindergartens are closed, and students are transferred to distance home teaching. The number of cases of COVID-19 in the country is increasing day by day, the state of anxiety in the society is growing. Parents stay home with their children, and children, especially small ones, require attention, walks, entertainment. How to relieve stress and explain to the kids why their usual way of life has changed so dramatically?

The parents’ concern that the situation with coronavirus quarantine can affect children is absolutely justified. Adult moms and dads ask themselves questions: should children know about the coronavirus pandemic in the country, and how can we explain it; do you go into details in your explanations, and how to answer thousands of “why” from little why-askers?

Many parents disengage from such conversations, those like “where do the children come from”. But let’s answer one question honestly: will it help? Modern kids already know how to use a tablet with Internet access before they learn to walk. And do you think that they will not find out the terrible news, for example, on YouTube? Therefore, a direct conversation with parents and the opportunity to ask questions will help children calm down and feel safe.

Get ready yourself

Talking about coronavirus is not easy. Adults, of course, worry about the situation. However, the main thing here is not to forget that your anxiety is transmitted to children. Moreover, they feel guilty of your restless state and begin to worry themselves. If you understand that you are too stressed, it is better to postpone “coronavirus” conversations for a more appropriate moment.

Ask what your child knows

More often than not, children are much more knowledgeable than adults can imagine. A piece of adult conversation or other children’s stories are real kid’s media. Start with the question: “What have you heard about the coronavirus?” Listen carefully, help fill out the necessary information, and answer questions if you are asked.

Speak plain language

It is very important to use words familiar to the child in a conversation with children. Children, not understanding the essence, may perceive different phrases differently, which have no meaning for you. I will give a simple example. One 5-year-old girl was very scared before the first planned visit to a psychiatrist. Later, her parents found out that she was afraid of “Dr. Psycho” and would never let him experiment with her.

The keywords today: “virus”, “quarantine”, “antiseptic”, understood by adults, probably need to be clarified when we use them in a conversation with children. Try to speak clearly, give specific examples, then the likelihood that the child will understand you better increases significantly.

Calm, just calm

As I said before, when you are angry, excited, or scared, children feel guilty, being independent of the situation. When adults behave at ease and confidently, children stop taking responsibility for you and stay children. Talk about everything in positive tones, let your kids have confidence that they are protected, and everything is fine in your family, and most importantly, it will be so!

Do not dismiss a child’s fears

Kids are far from always able to cope with anxiety and fear on their own. The standard dry answers to children’s 100 thousand “why” will only exacerbate the anxiety state. If you notice that your child is alarmed, focus on this. Ask your kid what exactly he is worried about, and how you can help him cope with it. Offer your help and allow the child to speak out, and anxiety will disappear.

Limit your child’s access to media resources

Every day, dozens of news about the coronavirus appear on the network. Much of what we see online is pure fake. Disappointing forecasts and huge numbers increase the anxiety not only of children but also of adults. Therefore, I recommend introducing a “news diet” first for yourself (browse reliable sources 1-2 times a day). Limit children’s access to the news using special software. If by age, your offspring has constant access to the network, then it is worth discussing, why not all information on the Internet is true, and how to distinguish it from a fake. Advise your already grown-up sons and daughters some proven news resources. They have the right to know what is happening.

And now, I want to give some examples of children’s questions and the best answers about coronavirus for their parents.

“Will I get sick?”, “Mom, will you get sick?”, “What happens if you and dad get sick?”

These are probably the most frequently asked and disturbing questions that parents can hear from their children. The main thing here is to make it clear to the child that neither he, nor his relatives are superheroes, and the virus is dangerous for you, as well as for everyone else. The best answer is: “We adhere to all the rules so as not to get sick.” “If we suddenly become ill, we will turn to good doctors, and we will be treated for sure.”

“Why shall I wash my hands so often?”

Show the child a video about the microworld, and explain that the microbes are very small and can’t be seen without a microscope. But they become the cause of many diseases, so washing your hands with soap is the best option to protect yourself from the disease.

For younger children, the explanation is often enough: “We wash our hands so as not to get ill.”

“When will I return to kindergarten/school?”

At first, most children perceive quarantine as a vacation: no need to go to school, get up early. But then comes the realization that this is still not a vacation, and going out with friends to a park, visiting grandparents, going to the movies will not work. Besides, the teacher daily gives homework, which for some reason needs to be done before 5 pm, and it becomes unbearably sad staying home.

Therefore, after 2 weeks, or even earlier, both toddlers and older children start asking the same question: “When will I go to kindergarten/school again?”. Explain to the children that isolation is a way to protect themselves and loved ones from the virus and that they will be able to walk freely and attend classes as soon as possible. Do not forget to add that you watch/listen/read the latest news every day and will learn about the end of isolation on the same day.

“I don’t have a coronavirus, so why mustn’t I go for a walk?”

Such questions are often asked by elder children, adolescents 13-16 years old. At this age, they are especially prone to experiencing and suffer from a lack of communication with friends. Some kids may get angry, because they have already heard that coronavirus passes easily enough with children, although, in fact, there are other data.

Tell them that they should think not only about themselves but also about others. Parents, people in the store, or neighbors may have weak immunity, and infection can be fatal for them. Thus, you increase the level of responsibility and importance of children in society.

“When will all this finish?”

This question worries not only children but all of us. The main thing is not to lie. Say frankly that you do not know, but at the moment, thousands of scientists and doctors all over the world are working to stop this as soon as possible.

And, in general, quarantine is a time to get closer. Do something useful and interesting together: bake a cake, draw a picture, read each other out loud. Creativity and other interesting tasks relieve anxiety, promote rapprochement, and, besides, it’s a great way to have fun and usefully spend time with your family.