The Chabad Early Education Network published a guide on how to speak to young children about coronavirus and schools shutting their doors.
Coronavirus, or COVID-19, has affected us all. More and more schools and organizations are making the difficult decision to shut their doors and put the wellbeing of their students, employees and colleagues at the forefront. Our children are being affected by these decisions, and it’s important to talk to them in a clear and timely manner.
It’s easy to get caught up in the panic of the situation and forget that our children are present, watching us. They pick up our emotions and more subtle body language, and learn to react in the same way as we do. Parents provide their children with a model on how to deal with challenge, doubt and worry.
We urge you to take the time to sit down with your children and talk to them about this situation on a level that is age appropriate, and from a reassuring Torah perspective. Look at the conversation as an opportunity to convey the facts and set the emotional tone.
The NCTSN (National Child Traumatic Stress Network) stated that as time goes on “children may experience feelings such as loneliness, boredom, fear of contracting disease, anxiety, stress, and panic. These are all normal reactions to a stressful situation such as a disease outbreak.”
As parents our goal is to reduce alarm and panic. Rather than obsessing over the scary facts, our children need reassurance. Most children will have already heard about the virus or seen people wearing face masks, so parents shouldn’t avoid talking about it. Not talking about something can actually make kids worry more.
Stanford Children’s Health psychiatrist Victor Carrion, MD states that “kids need information tailored to their age and comprehension level. A preschooler can handle less detail than a teenager, for instance, and children of different ages process their reactions to challenging news differently.” Playing games or drawing pictures about the news is the best approach for the very young, while engaging in conversation is appropriate for older kids.
When talking to you children, don’t volunteer too much information, as this may be overwhelming. Instead, try to answer your child’s questions. Do your best to answer honestly and clearly. It’s okay if you can’t answer everything; being available to your child is what matters most. Tell your kids it’s OK to ask you to verify any information they are hearing from others. If they seem apprehensive, don’t talk them out of it. Validate their feelings, give them context, and let them express their feelings in discussion.
The goal is to convey the message that home is a secure place, a haven where they can feel sheltered and loved. Help young children feel calm by maintaining routine, structure and schedule. Familiarity is most reassuring and kids crave structure and boundaries especially when they feel overwhelmed.
As yidden we know that we have an Aibishter to turn to, a Torah that provides clear guidelines and Mitzvos that we can do to better our situation. We are not helpless. Reassure your children that Hashem is protecting us and that they are safe. Let’s use Coronavirus as a platform to talk about Emuna and strengthen our Bitachon.
The CECE Network has already taken action in aiding our members with the resources needed to help alleviate the stress this pandemic has brought upon their communities. We are providing both support and guidance for the directors, including providing them with take-home activity packs and ready-to-use material. We are here to alleviate the transition from traditional school learning to an at-home learning environment.
The CECE Network is generously sponsored by the Walder Foundation, a project of The Shluchim Office.