How Do I Support My Kids In A Crisis? COVID-19
“How do I handle my kids, what do I tell them?”. If you’re a parent there is every chance that right now you have a number of questions, concerns, worries and ‘what ifs’ racing around your head. You might well be struggling to manage your own stress levels and could find yourself tipping over into anxiety and panic at times.
Regardless of their age, talking to your children is important. If you avoid the subject altogether or brush them off, you will only serve to fuel any potential worries or fears they may be harbouring. Our main aim is to minimise stress and trauma for our children and facilitate their on-going development.
Most kids will have heard about the Coronavirus and many older children and teens will have discussed the subject at school or on social media. This means there is every chance that some, if not all, of information they have is either extreme or inaccurate. Teachers in schools have done their best to keep young people informed, and it is your job as a parent to continue this, especially now we are looking at a period of weeks if not months with our kids at home.
Talk in a matter-of-fact rational way and stick to the facts. The amount of information you give will depend on the age of your child, but regardless of age, it can be useful to ask them what they already know and then invite them to ask questions. Blurting everything you know based on your research may be overwhelming for them, so give them the facts, address their questions, and let them know that this can be an on-going conversation. If they ask questions that you can’t answer, let them know that either no-one knows just yet, or you will find out and talk to them again.
One of the most important elements when talking to your children is your own emotional state and mindset. If you are feeling overwhelmed, stressed and anxious and you attempt to speak to your kids from this ‘space’, they will feel your emotion. We can’t help but radiate our feeling state and children are exceptional empaths and will detect your state and internalise that more readily than the words coming out of your mouth.
The key is to ground yourself. Come back into your body, breathe and allow whatever feelings you have to flow. Your body and brain are wired to come back into a natural state of balance regardless of circumstances. You have an Emotional Reset System that works in the same way as your physical reset. When you can feel your way back to a state of balance, your mind will clear, and you will be in a great place to speak with your kids.
Remind your kids that whatever they feel is OK, encourage them to feel their emotions without getting pulled into over thinking. If you kids are fearful or stressed it can be useful to know that the best way to help them is to be calm, centred and grounded yourself. Simply giving them attention, listening and remaining connected to yourself will make a big difference.
When it comes to the practical aspects of what we are facing, kids like to know what steps to take. Remind them about what they need to do in order to remain safe and encourage them to stick to existing routines and have structure to their day.
When faced with uncertainty there are simple steps we can take to help stay grounded and level headed. Being a little more present in the now moment is vital. Fear emotions will evoke fear-based thinking which can lead us down a path of mental churning and mind loops worrying about what will happen. Remember that human beings are incredibly resourceful and resilient. We have a lengthy track record of dealing with whatever challenges we face. Critically, we are more effective at dealing with those challenges when we are present in the moment and have clarity of mind and thought. When we are all churned up in a ball of anxiety it is almost impossible to think clearly. I would go so far as to suggest that you embrace uncertainty, because what you ultimately want to manage is your own feelings. When you stay present in the now moment and trust your emotional system reset to bring you back to feeling good regardless of what life throws at you, you are better equipped to deal with life and your psychological suffering will reduce dramatically.
Remove your attention from those things you can’t control and invite your children to do the same. Focus attention on what you can do, what you can influence and direct. Invite your kids to focus their energy into schoolwork, hobbies and staying connected with friends.
Be safe, be well