We are in scary and uncertain times. Our country, as we know it, has shut down. We are in social seclusion, and many people are losing their jobs or are sick. This is scary for adults, but it is extremely frightening for children. Children react to how their parents/guardians react. They base their fears on what they see and experience at home. We need to be honest with our kids about our fears, but we also need to present information to them in a way that helps them understand and assures them that we will do all we can to keep them safe.
Talk to your child. Share your fears as a family, but only share what your child will understand. Talk about what is happening and let your child talk as well. Understanding what your child thinks and feels will go a long way in helping you help them.
Make sure that you explain the strange things they see around them and how their daily routines will change:
There is an illness going around that people can catch very easily. This is why we have to stay away from people as much as possible.
There are a lot of people wearing masks. This can be scary to see, but the reason they are wearing masks is to keep them healthy. Some people get sick easier than others, and wearing masks helps them keep safe.
We must wash our hands. Washing our hands is the best way to keep healthy, along with staying out of public areas. Remember you should wash your hands with soap for at least 20 seconds under running water. Sing “Jesus Loves Me” or “Happy Birthday” to time yourself.
Because we have to stay home, some people are out of jobs. Dad and Mom will always do their best to take care of you and provide for you. Let the grownups worry about money! You parents might need to cut back on some costs, and they may not be able to order take out food as much or buy things as often, but it will be okay.
You can help mom and dad by being patient and by giving extra hugs. Parents worry about taking care of their kids. Let your mom and dad know that you are happy and that you trust them. If mom and dad say you have to stay away from people, this is to keep you safe. Listen to mom and dad!
Go outside and play in your yard. Get fresh air! Take walks with your parents. Being outside helps us feel better. You might start looking for bears and hearts in the windows of houses in your neighborhood. Many people are putting these in their windows for kids to find on their walks. It is like “Going on a Bear Hunt” and getting distant hugs from friends.
God is in control of everything and God will take care of us! God took care of Noah and his family in the ark, God took care of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, God took care of King David and Solomon, and God will take care of us! God is bigger than any of this and God sees what is going on. God will help us! Just ask.
Then, once you talk to your child, be careful not to contradict that message. Kids hear us talk, and often kids hear what we are saying even when we think they are in a different room. Be careful of what little ears hear. Too often my daughters overheard something my husband and I were talking about and became overly worried and scared. They didn’t understand the context of what we were saying, or perhaps they didn’t hear everything we said, and then their little imaginations (which are very big at times) took over. How we act and react to news and information shows our children how they should act and react. A calm parent who takes things in stride and trusts God to get us through this results in a calm child who isn’t afraid of his/her future.
Please be aware of what your child watches on television. News is scary and too much news is extremely frightening and overwhelming. Watch light-hearted television and movies. Watch shows as a family. Play games and do crafts! Use this time to spend time as a family.
Many young children do not understand why they cannot see or play with their friends or classmates. You might consider setting up a “Skype” playdate or a playdate via FaceTime so that your child can connect with friends during this scary time. It might also be a good idea to connect with grandparents and aunt/uncles, cousins, in this manner. Talking on the phone is a great tool, but for young children, a picture is worth 1000 words, and seeing faces reassures many fears!
Remember that God is always in control and He is prepared to give you everything you need to lead your family through this moment. Lean on Him and, even if you can’t always find the right words to say, His light will shine in this dark moment.
Andrew and Shantelle Ebbert
Greenfield Church of Christ