Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, children have experienced a series of disappointments from school closures to canceled celebrations to missed birthday parties.
Dr. Karen Rowland, associate professor and chair of Mercer University‘s Department of Counseling in the College of Professional Advancement, has advice to help parents encourage their children amid this crisis.
“You’re teaching your child how to handle future disappointments that are going to come. These disappointments are going to teach them how to bounce back,” Dr. Rowland said. “How they handle it, how they deal with it today, is going to determine how they handle it later on.”
Dr. Rowland recently presented the following tips in a webinar to parents at Fulton Science Academy, but they are relevant for anyone caring for a child during this time.
Talk with your child calmly about the pandemic.
Find out what your child knows. Does he understand what is COVID-19? Does he have a clear understanding of what is a pandemic? This will allow you to correct any misinformation your child has while keeping it age appropriate. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has a website for COVID-19 information.
Help your child feel a sense of control.
While you can’t control the pandemic, you can control what you do to protect yourself. Parents should explain to children that by following instructions, like washing hands thoroughly and wearing masks when you leave the home, your family is taking action to keep yourselves and others safe.
Share positive information.
While we hear a lot about the people who are dying from COVID-19, talk to your child about the number of people who are recovering from the virus. Tell your child about the doctors who are working every day to find a cure or to stop the virus from spreading.
Work through your own emotions.
If you’re sad, disappointed or frustrated, work through these emotions first because your emotions will affect your child’s. If your actions are not in line with what you’re saying, your child will not believe you, so you must deal with your disappointments, your fears and your concerns before trying to talk to your child.
Listen to your child’s feelings and validate them.
Don’t be afraid to talk about your child’s emotions. Some children may be afraid or worried while others may be disappointed about missing canceled activities. Let your child know it’s OK to feel that way. If your child doesn’t want to talk about it, don’t force it, but let him know you’re there to listen when he’s ready. Remind your child of the positive things he can be thankful for, such as health, friends and loving parents.
Celebrate your child’s accomplishments.
Even though events have been postponed or canceled, you can come up with creative ways to celebrate your child’s achievements. Plan a party for the future or hold one using live streaming. Be a sounding board for their ideas, but be able to give some suggestions as well.
“Your love toward your child is so powerful. It’s a protective force that really and truly helps them to handle life when life gets tough,” Dr. Rowland said. “If a child knows that he or she is loved unconditionally, it’s amazing what that child will be able to do.
“It’s amazing what that child will be able to accomplish and what difficulties that child will be able to handle if they know that there’s unconditional love no matter what.”