During this time most families are feeling a unique type of stress that is intensified by a war-like attack against something difficult to understand, and invisible to see. In many families one or both income earners (if there were two), have had their jobs affected permanently or temporarily. In other cases, if they owned a business, that business has been affected, if not lost. In addition, people are working in the healthcare field facing a global danger that can affect not only themselves but also their families. Even if the family did not experience any of the above, the strain of families all living together with restricted movement 24 hours a day, 7 days a week is stressful.
Regardless of all the unique family circumstance, the psychological stress of this situation is great, and our kids feel it. They feel the worry, the uncertainty and the frustration, and it is up to all of us to use this time to demonstrate deep thoughtfulness and caring. How we react to the situation will affect how our children react to emergency situations in their future. The following is a list some things to think about to help your child cope with their own stress.
- Don’t lie to your kids, neither should you exaggerate any stories. Tell them the facts, if needed, and have them contribute with ideas for solutions. This is empowering them and showing them how to problem solve in their own lives. You don’t need to tell them all the horrible facts when they are young. The mere fact that this virus is confusing to most people will bring uncertainty, so bringing some clarity to them will help.
- Speak with understanding and compassion about others, rather than focusing on your own hardships. Discussions around the dinner table can shift to being thankful for what you have, and how to help others. When you speak about the struggles and the achievements of others, it helps kids focus on others, and to understand the behaviours of other people. This also helps your children understand compassion and gives them hope. You may also find ways to help others at this time, as taking action to solve a problem helps your children better understand others, and how to be part of a solution rather than the problem.
- Demonstrate courage. Courage exists when there is fear, and regardless of how much you think you are hiding your fear, your children will “smell it”. It is also important, that your children understand that fear is okay, so don’t hide it and pretend that it isn’t there. Rather, demonstrate how you are overcoming fear with your courage. This strength will be what your children will remember and try to emulate in their own lives. Modelling courage allows your children to know what it looks like, so that they too can live it.