Guiding Our Children Through COVID-19

Today’s blog post is written by CPLS Grammar School Counselor Melissa Gossard

We have all likely found ourselves trying to discern the level of precaution and concern we should take as we gather information about the recent Coronavirus outbreak.  This includes navigating questions and concerns from our children on a situation that feels unfamiliar and unusual to most of us.  We know the battle of fear, anxiety and even panic are nothing new to humanity and yet it can lurk around the corner waiting for us to fall prey, causing us to forget what we know to be true.  Children can be especially vulnerable to this when they hear and see adults acting differently or speaking about certain events of the world.  We can look through scripture and history pages to remember that indeed struggle will come but we are not helpless beings to be tossed around by struggle and left without hope. 

Although this is a time of concern and needed precaution, I believe this is also a wonderful time to encourage and empower our children (and ourselves) to lean into the Lord with full dependence as we remember our God already has the victory over any struggle we face.  He waits for His children to seek Him earnestly in all things. 

A few tips in talking with your children:

  1. Lead your family with a decision that this situation will be handled with a hope that is absent of panic and prolonged negativity.   We hear and care about our children’s feelings but we don’t empower the feelings of fear.  When children see and feel your leadership, it allows them to better trust in you and the Lord, reducing anxiety.    
  2. Be mindful of your own anxiety.    Children mirror our responses to times of struggle/concern.  If you are feeling anxious, this is not the time to talk to your child about the virus.  Work to calm down and then engage with them.  It’s ok to share you are concerned but concern is not the same as worry and panic.  Help them to see and feel the difference. 
  3. Be developmentally appropriate in what and how you talk to your children.  Be mindful of adult conversations and media exposure.  Children hearing bits and pieces of information can unnecessarily increase anxiety.  The younger the child the more information is limited.  However, when they want information, remain truthful but simple in what you share.  NOTE:  If you have a child that already struggles with anxiety, pay close attention to cues from your child as to what you feel they can handle.  Sometimes “small dose” conversations are better than long, heavy discussions. Share a little and then move onto something different.  Avoid leading questions that prompt anxiety like, “I see you are feeling anxious.”  Or “Are you scared about the virus?”  Instead simply ask, “How are you feeling about the change the virus has caused?”  Affirm their feelings as real and then take the next step of encouragement.  Provide simple action steps for your family (start with great ones from our community and country) to do your part in flattening the curve. 
  4. Maintain routine and predictability.   Keep a schedule as much as possible.  Require children be productive, which includes work and serving others.  This can be calming and provide purpose and healthy distraction. 
  5. Provide encouragement and empowerment.  Children cope differently even within the same family.  We acknowledge the fears that include potential consequences of the virus but don’t allow the child to live there.  Strive to help your children see the good in past struggles both globally and personally.  Ask the question, “Tell me about a time when you felt scared and you persevered?  What helped?”  Discuss daily what you are thankful for.  Remind them how God has been faithful and that we are able to do hard things. 
  6. Recite scripture that points them to the One who remains in control.  Use this time of uncertainty to remember who is certain. Our God and His word have and will stand the test of time and change, including illness.  Joshua 1:9 Have I not commanded you?  Be strong and courageous.  Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go. 
  7. Be intentional to connect with your children.  Keep laughing and having fun with your kids!  This is hands down one of the most effective strategies to calm our kids.  Keep hugging them.  Connection disarms fear and promotes felt safety.   Read together, be creative in writing, construction or baking, play games, take walks, etc.  Make fun memories together that they will one day associate with the 2020 Coronavirus.
  8. Pray with your children for others who have the virus and for their protection as we would any other illness.  Modeling prayer during times of uncertainty demonstrates to our children the most powerful coping skill in calming our spirits and helps us choose trust over fear.   

Let us lead our children to remember this difficult time with memories of more than just a time of unrest.  May they remember the closeness they felt to their families and their God.  I join you all in prayer for protection and a steadfast spirit of hope in our God who remains good and in control. 

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