Written by: Marisa Brahney
Let’s admit it—being a parent during this global pandemic has a lot of unforeseen challenges. From trying to work from home while wrangling little ones to homeschooling our bigger kids to keeping our families healthy and safe, it’s all uncharted territory. And while we’re figuring this all out on the fly, our kids are asking questions. My four-year-old is as curious as they come, and I’ve been grappling with how to best explain this on his level. How can we put aside our own fears about this uncertain, scary time and be the calm, steady presence our children need right now? What’s appropriate to tell a four-year-old about the coronavirus pandemic? An eight-year-old? A teenager? We sat down with Dr. Liz Matheis, a child psychologist (who’s also one of our NJMOMprenuers) to give us mamas the professional guidance we need to help our kids understand what’s happening.
Dr. Liz advises that in circumstances like this, less is often more. Over-explaining or giving details that are too complex for children to understand can often add to anxiety. So, it’s important to keep things simple and age-appropriate. “Let children guide the conversation with their own questions,” says Dr. Liz. “Turn off the news when the kids are around and try to keep adult coronavirus conversations with your spouse or someone else mostly to yourself.” That means limiting talk about the newest death toll numbers, hospital overcrowding or other scary topics in earshot of the little ones. Another thing to think about is that to them, the biggest thing about this is how it affects them directly.
“For many kids, no matter the age, the hardest part of this to understand is the socialization. They want to know when they’ll get to see their friends,” says Dr. Liz. “You need to think about how to explain why they’re not seeing friends right now. I would say that we’re staying home so we’re safe and don’t get the virus, and so nobody else gets the virus.”