All of us are living through an unprecedented experience. We must keep aware of how this is affecting children; they are witnessing these events through the outlook of youth. What should you say to your child and how should you say it? A recent article in my journal Pediatric News interviewed child psychiatrist David Fassler, MD of University of Vermont. Please allow me to summarize his recommendations, adding a few of my own.
First, be available. Encourage your children to speak up about their concerns. Ask them questions–what have they heard, what do they think, what are their friends saying? Don’t push them to discuss subjects if they seem reluctant to do so. Be sure to say only what you know–if you don’t have the answer, say so. You can then look up information together. While you are doing that, remember to share with them that not everything posted on the internet is true or accurate (of course, that applies generally–good opportunity to remind them of that FACT). Take that opportunity to screen information for them; don’t shrink from gently steering your child away from a site or information that seems too technical, confusing, and in particular that which seems alarming or inaccurate. This is a great time to remind you all that one area to definitely avoid when seeking answers is social media sites which are generally riddled with misinformation.
Talk with your children about this in a calm, balanced, matter of fact way. Your tone, facial expressions, and body language are all important. If in discussion with other adults, be aware that children may be listening from the side. Endeavor to keep more troubling exchanges out of their earshot. Do acknowledge their fears; its ok to calmly share your own qualms as well to your child in terms at their intellectual/developmental level. It’s best, wherever possible, to deflect specific questions about family finances in the face of the myriad shutdowns in the community. Regarding that topic, gentle and general reassurance is best. Don’t promise too much, and, again, don’t make untrue statements. Examples: “We are fine right now”; “we are going to pull together and we will take care of each other as we always do.”
Make sure your children maintain their regular healthy lifestyle habits: regular bedtimes and awakenings(in particular with teens); 3 square meals (now that so many are home a lot more, avoid excess snacking); do homework assignments promptly and regularly; read for pleasure.
Finally, and old adage says that “every challenge is an opportunity.” Your children are unable to attend school and many parents are stuck at home idled from work as well. A great chance for family time! Read, watch movies together; play games (for the love of Gd, board or card games some instead of just video games!!); take family walks, bike rides, play sports–have a catch, shoot baskets, hit tennis balls together (maintaining appropriate “social distance”). At least this is happening in springtime–enjoy it.
I quoted George Harrison in my last post–“All Things Must Pass.” With my aches and pains, I have benefited from the gaining of a bit of wisdom from aging. I certainly don’t know when, but, eventually, we will get through this. We just need to remain calm, patient, and–most important– supportive of each other. ESPECIALLY OUR CHILDREN!!
Thanks for following.