This morning many of us are waking up to unprecedented preventative measures. Schools all over the country are shutting down in the wise and steady action to stem the advancement of the virus. Due to the everchanging nature of the situation, this swift decision will have a significant impact on your children and families over the next few days and weeks. As a fearless team, we have a few thoughts for consideration:
Talk To Your Kids
Events like this can cause real fear, confusion and anxiety in children. Words like quarantine, pandemic, death-toll and mortality rate are scary and often unused in our society. It is so important to talk about Coronavirus with your children on an ongoing basis. Here’s a great resource on how to do that.
Listen to Your Kids
As parents, we tend to do a lot of talking. It’s important to stop and listen to what our kids have to say and what they are processing through. You can ask you children to write out some questions, or write out their thoughts and for younger ages you can ask them to draw a picture. You may even consider asking your children to text you emojis of how they are feeling.
Don’t Downplay Coronavirus
I realize there’s a lot of disinformation out there and statistics and comparisons going around on social media. THIS ISN’T LIKE THE FLU! This is a statewide shutdown recommended by infection disease specialists. Telling your children that this is “no big deal” or expressing your frustration about the media overplaying this isn’t helpful. In the mind of your child(ren) this is a big deal (the Governor has mandated a shutdown on schools). You may not agree with the rationale, but your children will only be more confused if you continually tell them that this situation is all a “bunch of hogwash” or is a “political agenda.” (Please refer to the link above for helpful talking points)
Yes, coronavirus is serious. School shutdowns are serious. Children will follow your lead – emotionally and spiritually. Your ability to remain calm is directly proportional to your children’s ability to remain calm. Be wise with your words and how much media you and your family engage in. DO. NOT. HORDE. SUPPLIES. Children translate stock-piling and hording to fear, worry and anxiety.
Get Outside and Play Games
Though avoiding largely populated gatherings is paramount, getting outside and playing in nature has significant benefits on the mind, body and soul. Going for a walk, playing in the yard, riding bikes and scooters are important for children. Break out the board games, card games, crafts and such. You can even break out the video games (games provide escape – and in a situation like this escape is good).
Be Wise With Social Media Outlets and Monitor Screen Time
There is a real balance needed here. Remember that your children will soon be disconnected from their friends at school and FOR A LONG TIME. Disconnection in a state of anxiety can have significant ramifications on the mind, body and soul (for everyone). Facetime, TikTok, Instagram are OK for your kids. Just remember that these outlets can create more anxiety at times (kids read or hear disinformation, new/shocking information) and in long exposure (children often retreat to social media for long periods as a means of avoiding the fear/worry that they feel). In general, 1-2 hours of direct screen time a day is appropriate. Also, it’s ok to turn the screens on when YOU need a break too (this is going to be a long haul).
Practice Calming Strategies As A Family
There are simple strategies and games you can play with your children and as a family that can help curb the anxiety and bring calm to your household. Deep breathing, full body relaxation guides, mental vacations, and intentional play activities can make all the difference in the day. Here are a few sites to get you started.
Look for Ways to Serve Those In Need
The elderly, immune-compromised and marginalized in society are at the greatest risk in this time. This is a great moment to show your children how they can move beyond fear and into love for others in crisis and need (these things are caught more than they are taught). Additionally, acts of service are great ways to give children a sense of purpose and control in the midst of a chaotic situation. As a family consider wise and helpful ways to help others:
- Make grocery runs for the elderly and shut in
- Bake cookies for neighbors
- Get the mail for your neighbors
- Write letters of encouragement to friends and loved ones and neighbors
Pray with Your Kids
You may or may not be a person of “faith” but research shows that spiritual activities and faith engagement on a regular basis can curb the effects of anxiety and worry substantially. Taking time in the morning and evening to pray over fears, loved ones, friends, family and those in need are incredibly important and can bring peace to our hearts and minds. The words of the Apostle Paul are as relevant in this moment as they were 2,000 years ago:
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.”
There’s going to be a lot of fear and worry going around in the next few weeks. Help your kids (and yourselves) by focusing on what you can control and by staying positive. Love your kids, love others, STOP HORDING, take a deep breath and wash your hands.
Grace and Peace,
Cathy Dreyer, Derek Laird and Josh Zoerhof