Welcome to the year of the COVID crisis………The year 2020 started out normal. After the first month or so though, we’ve all seen our lives pretty much turned upside down. COVID-19 entered our vocabulary and since it did, everything changed.
As the virus continues making its way through various states, anxiety levels have skyrocketed for many, and one group in particular concerns me. Children.
How COVID anxiety affects our children may not be known in full for many years, but that doesn’t mean we can’t try to lessen the impact now. In the early days of this current health crisis, so little information was known about the virus and its method of transmission that a lot of us reported feeling helpless and overwhelmed. Information is power, and we had almost none. Modern technology is a blessing and a curse though. Now we are bombarded by a constant stream of reports about COVID and many of those reports offer conflicting information. Politics have entered into the conversation and further inflamed the situation. And our children are often hearing too much.
So, what DO children need to hear? That depends on their age. Toddlers may only need to have adults work with them on frequent and proper handwashing and learn that sometimes they will see adults in masks. Watching their family and caregivers putting on and taking off masks will help them begin to process that a mask is not scary – it’s basically an item of clothing. Older preschoolers can add a little more knowledge to their base. They can learn that germs can cause us to get sick and that right now we are all being more careful about germs. Because of the extra germs that are around at this time, there are some things we are taking a break from – big parties, extra travelling, unnecessary shopping trips, parades, etc. They can be reminded that smart people are working on ways to fight the germs. School-age children are more able to understand basic social distancing and the purpose of the extra handwashing and sanitizing we are doing during the health crisis. They can hear about viruses that have entered our world in the past and see that doctors and scientists were able to create vaccines and medicines to treat them.
Most importantly, remember what children DON’T need to hear. Limit how much children are hearing dire news reports and statistics. Be aware of your conversations with friends and relatives – when children hear adults talking excessively about COVID fears and worries, they take on many of those fears and worries. Those conversations may help adults process their own issues, but they need to happen away from children.
COVID is still a very serious issue and we have to be vigilant. We also have a responsibility to our children to allow them to be children. That’s not an easy job these days but it’s important. These are history-making times. What will your children remember?