Kids are always watching. They’re sensitive to feelings, even if they can’t always put those feelings into words. So the first thing to do when you are going to embark on any subject with kids is to tune in to yourself. Ask yourself, “How am I feeling about this myself?" Notice your own thoughts, how tense or relaxed you may be, and consider your own actions. If you are stressed, be aware of it and practice some self-care. If kids see people practice good self-care, they learn to do it too.
Here are a few guidelines:
- Take the time to answer their questions. Kids like to know the reasons for things. They have an unlimited curiosity about the why of things. You can tell them the facts of what led to the current situation and what’s happening in simple terms. If they ask you why bad things like this happen at all, it is an opportunity to share your beliefs with them, so take a moment ahead of time to think about your own views.
- When you do tell them the facts, do it without too many details. Let them know also that people who are very dedicated and good at this — scientists and doctors and community leaders — are all working hard to find solutions.
- Tell kids about how people have gotten through similar difficult things in the past. Some kids are interested in history and you can remind them how people got through diseases that have come and gone and been met with eventual cures.
- Tell them how strong this is going to make them and their whole generation. It’s true. Generation Z is amazingly aware of societal and environmental problems and many kids are passionate and dedicated to finding ways to meet those challenges.
- Take note of positive stories about the crisis and share, like the housebound Italians singing to each other. If someone does something kind or creative in the midst of a crisis, it can give people a lot of heart to face it.
- Use humor to get through, laughter is the opposite of anxiety. Goofy GIFS and funny cat videos are shared eight million times for a reason.
- Don’t have media about the crisis on all the time or talk about it non-stop. Take breaks from the subject and enjoy the present moment together as much as you can.
- If you, someone you know, or someone you’re close to you gets sick, it’s naturally going to be harder. Lean into all of your supports. Be honest with kids about the illness, but try to stay even-keeled. For most kids, their biggest fear is something bad happening to their parents.
These kids are living through something very significant, something they will always remember and that will shape them, just as previous generations were shaped by different crises. How you respond to it will shape their approach. If you see a pandemic only as an invasion brought about by others, they will learn to be afraid. If you see it also as evidence of how interconnected we all are, and how essential cooperation is for survival, they will learn that.
Use this strange time to slow down, think about what you really value, and love up the people around you.
If you or someone you know is quarantined or in a no-visitation situation, creating a Give InKind page is a great way to continue to show care and support from afar. You can schedule regular phone calls with friends and family members through a care calendar, facilitate sending care packages, groceries, and other necessities, and so much more.
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