Many children are afraid right now. Like you, they have ready access to the 24/7 news cycle via their smartphones or their friends or their friends’ parents. Your child probably knows more about what’s going on with the pandemic and political stress than you think, and she is probably afraid.
You may feel helpless in the face of these fears, but you’re not.
I’ve often written about the difference between reactive and proactive parenting. Reactive parenting reacts to a situation at hand and scrambles for a spontaneous answer or solution. Proactive parenting plans ahead so that when a tough moment arises, you are ready with an action plan or words of comfort.
When it comes to your child’s fears, it is best to be proactive rather than reactive. Anticipate your child’s fears and questions and decide how you will respond. Here are a few ways you can do this.
1. Initiate conversation.
Don’t wait until your child comes to you. As I said, kids are seeing images and updates on social media, and their friends are talking, so they are already thinking about the pandemic or that day’s big news event. Initiating discussion won’t put ideas or fears in their minds. Instead, it will tell your child you are aware of the situation and how it might be affecting him. Proactively talking through his fears will help alleviate them.
2. Use simple language.
When talking to kids about hard things, simplify your language as much as possible. There’s a lot of medical jargon being thrown around right now in regard to COVID-19. Avoid those big words. Talk about how a virus is going around that can make people sick, but there are things we can do to protect ourselves and others, like wear a mask or stay away from big groups. Your child doesn’t need to know the number of cases or number of deaths. Keep things simple, so she doesn’t feel overwhelmed on top of her fear.
3. Give them something to do.
I always tell my kids to pray for whatever situation is causing them fear. Even young children need to participate in a solution. Asking them to pray helps them feel that they can make a difference. Together, pray for those who are sick and their families. Getting in the habit of praying during times like this will help strengthen your child’s faith and help her learn to pray reflexively when life gets tough.
4. Give them reassurance.
Tell your child that he is safe and will be ok. Most people who get sick recover quickly and that would be the case for him too. Tell him that your job as Mom and Dad is to protect him and that you feel very confident in your abilities to do your job well.
The world is a scary place right now, but your child does not need to live in fear. She also doesn’t need to be sheltered and protected from reality. As the pandemic continues, proactively talk to your child about how she is feeling and what she is thinking. Open the line of communication to talk about the hard things. The more you talk to your child honestly, the more secure she will feel.