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As the Pandemic Trudges On, What to Say to Our Kids

Experts say questions from kids are going to continue to challenge parents as the pandemic lingers and kids, like adults, experience ‘pandemic fatigue.

“This is such a hard time for families and, particularly, families with young children,” said Susan Linn, a lecturer on psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and national advisory board member with the nonprofit Defending the Early Years. “Families are really struggling.” I asked Linn and another expert, Dr. Tia Kim, the vice president of education, research and impact at the Seattle-based Committee for Children, for advice on helping young kids understand and manage their feelings as they face frustration, changes in routines and uncertainty—with no apparent end in sight.

  • Be honest: “It’s really important to be truthful and factual,” said Kim. “If you don’t have an answer to the question, it’s ok to say, ‘That’s a really interesting question. I don’t know the answer to that, but I’ll try to find out for you.’’ For younger kids, such as those in preschool or kindergarten, Kim says to keep answers “short and simple.”
  • Be transparent about what will happen, and what won’t: It’s clear by now that the pandemic will not be over by Christmas or early 2021. If kids ask, it’s important to tell them that, Linn said. Similarly, if routines are changing due to schools opening or closing, it’s important to tell kids exactly what will happen and why.
  • Share your own feelings, but with some restraint: Linn says it can be helpful for kids to hear their parents acknowledge they are frustrated with the situation, too. And Kim agrees that it’s good for parents to show “vulnerability.” But Kim also encourages parents to project safety and security when they speak to children about the coronavirus and other tough subjects.
  • Be a good listener: “It’s important to give kids an opportunity to talk about their feelings, and also to validate their feelings,” Linn said. “One of the things adults tend to do with children is minimize their feelings…if the child says, ‘I’m worried or scared,’ [you can say] ‘I know you’re worried. I’ll do everything I can to help you.’”
  • Control what you can: Parents can’t control whether school is open for in person learning or how fast the pandemic ends, but they can keep “the structure and routine at home as stable as possible,” Kim said. Parents can say, “’I know you’re tired of it, I’m tired of it. I really, really want this to go away,’” Linn said. “’Let’s think about some things we can do together that can be fun or will take our minds off of it.’”

Excerpted from “As the Pandemic Trudges On, What to Say to Our Kids” in The Hechinger Report. Read the full article for more detailed recommendations.

Source: The Hechinger Report | As the Pandemic Trudges On, What to Say to Our Kids, https://hechingerreport.org/as-the-pandemic-trudges-on-what-to-say-to-our-kids | © 2021 The Hechinger Report

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