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Explaining the current pandemic your children and supporting their mental health during community wi

Be intentional about what information your children consume regarding the pandemic:

  • Limit how much the news is on in the background when they are awake

  • Be aware of how often family members are discussing the pandemic and what the emotional tone is when children are around

  • Ask your children what questions they have about school closings and the virus they’ve been hearing about

  • Before you answer their questions, find out what they think the answers are. You want to make sure you can help correct any significant misinformation they’ve gathered

  • Answers you give to their questions will depend on the age/developmental level and particular needs of your child. Here are some general guidelines, but you know your child best, so use your best judgment as you navigate this challenging topic with your children:

  • Ages 2 and under

  • Explain any changes in your family’s routine in terms your child will understand, e.g. “we won’t be going to preschool/daycare for a while, but instead you’ll be spending more time with mommy/daddy/caregiver”

  • Be especially mindful of your own mental health and reaction to the pandemic and the ways this may impact your interactions with your young children. Seek support if you need it.

  • If there is more than one caregiver is in the home, try to make sure each caregiver (especially the primary caregiver) has some time “off duty” a few times a week

  • Ages 3 to 5

  • Let them know that adults are working together to keep people safe

  • Focus them on the things that you will get to do together that you wouldn’t normally have time for since you are home together more

  • Take them seriously, validate their worries and acknowledge that you don’t have all of the answers but are there to talk

  • Ensure they maintain connections to family and friends with your help using the phone or facetime or sending short videos or pictures of themselves to loved ones

  • If there is more than one caregiver is in the home, try to make sure each caregiver (especially the primary caregiver) has some time “off duty” a few times a week

  • Ages 6 to 11

  • Let them know that doctors and scientists are working hard and fast to keep people safe

  • Let them know that most people who get the virus will be okay

  • Take them seriously, validate their worries and acknowledge that you don’t have all of the answers but are there to talk

  • Ensure they maintain connections to family and friends with your help using the phone or facetime or sending short videos or pictures of themselves to loved ones

  • Talk about how they can help, for example by washing their hands, limiting contact with others, calling or drawing pictures/writing letter for elderly family members who may be isolated

  • Ask them to help you brainstorm ideas to keep your family entertained while you are practicing social distancing

  • Ages 12 and up

  • Have discussions about what they’ve read online or heard from friends. If needed, find credible sources online together to answer their questions with the best information out there

  • Take them seriously, validate their worries and acknowledge that you don’t have all of the answers but are there to talk.

  • Keep an eye on their media/news consumption regarding COVID-19 and have discussions around how to set boundaries around this, especially in the evenings before bed

  • Support your children’s mental health in other ways including:

  • Maintain regular sleep/wake times even if they aren’t leaving the house

  • Get dressed each day even if they aren’t leaving the house

  • Have regular meal times together as a family

  • Schedule activities in the home depending on your child’s age Activities may include:

  • school work/educational activities

  • crafts/creative work

  • reading

  • contributing to the household/family - meal prep, chores, etc.

  • Get outside with your children each day

  • Keep limits on screen time

  • Above all, take care of your own emotional needs and encourage your partner to do the same, as this will set the tone for the household during this time

 

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