We are in a pandemic. But how do we best explain this to our kids?
As a parent, there are many things that you will have to talk to your kid about. Talking to strangers, crossing the street, dealing with bullies, how to treat people and make friends, sex, and drugs are just a few. But how to talk to your kids about a pandemic. Well that is a new one.
Here are a few ways to make the discussion about the COVID-19 pandemic just a little bit easier:
Separate Fact From Fiction
During any national crisis, there is a tendency to catastrophize. It is simply human nature to imagine the worst-case scenario, and in the process, become even more panicked. Then we pick up the news, in an attempt to learn more, and get even more exaggerated accounts of what is actually happening. Where we end up is a whole lot more anxious than we were before.
Now that kids are super-connected, the same thing can happen to them. Their friends talk to them about the pandemic, they google it, scroll through their Facebook feed, and before they know it, start thinking the world is ending.
What is lost in the process is reality. Here is where you come in. Teach your kids to search for credible news sources, and together with them find out the reality. Teach them to avoid taking just any news article or friend’s Facebook post at face value. When you help them become an educated consumer, not only do your empower them to find accurate knowledge, but also to recognize what isn’t true – and what might simply be a news article that is written to get attention by generating fear.
Limit Media Influences
There is so much data about the effect of too much media consumption on our mood, ability to concentrate, control impulses, and even our health. During a national crisis, this effect is on overdrive. Because not only do people turn to the media more during a crisis, but as numerous studies have shown, articles are slanted toward exaggerated versions of reality. And the more we expose ourselves to these influences, the more uncertain our future seems to become, and the more panicked we become.
One of the best things you can do for your kid during this pandemic is model balanced media consumption. Don’t spend your day scrolling through articles about coronavirus. Don’t make your day revolve around your smartphone. If you do work online, make sure your kid understands the difference between doing work online, and consuming media online.
Limit your media consumption to no more than one hour a day, and spend the rest of your time getting outside, exercising, reading a book, or doing an activity that you enjoy. These are the things we would want our kids to do. So help them by modeling it for them.
Encourage Them To Come To Your With Questions
Kids are always full of questions, and especially when the future is uncertain. They may look online for answers, they may talk to their friends, or they may make assumptions. When they do, they may not come to accurate conclusions about what is happening, and the result is that they will likely become more anxious, and more fearful about the future.
You can stop this cycle by reminding your kid that if he has questions about the pandemic (or anything) he should always come to you first. If you don’t have the answer, do a web search and use the opportunity to find credible sources of information. When you engage your kid in the process of coming to you to find answers to his questions, and searching for answers with you, you help him avoid influences that might steer him from the truth, and are likely also to only increase his fears.
Talking to your kid about this pandemic is something every parent will have to do at some point, yet it can also be an opportunity to help your child learn how to manage fears, find correct information, and avoid the things that will exacerbate his fears.
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