Top 5 Parenting Tips for Kids & COVID-19
by Justin Gung
#1 RAISE YOUR ANTENNAE. Many kids have internal antennae that are more sensitive than we think. If a notable amount of anxiety is in their environment, they will know. They will sense it, feel it, and sometimes absorb it. So, the first thing to do is to raise your own antennae and be mindful of the environment. Can the news be heard throughout the house? Do they overhear your worried conversation with your sister? Can they see dad fretting about the market? While not sticking your head in the sand, which is often unhelpful, try to create an environment that is calm, care-free, and more cheerful than not.
#2 TAKE THEIR HAND & FOLLOW. If you talk to your kids about the news, let them take the lead. Yes, you can raise the topic initially if you choose: “Are you curious about why school has been closed for so long?” But once you do, don’t overshare or give too much information, especially not in the language of adults. Kids will intuitively seek the information they can handle.
Importantly, when they ask questions, answer with simple, age-appropriate language: “We can help people by staying at home for now.” “Let’s treat it like a snow day!” “Doctors want us to stay at home, so that’s what we’re doing. They don’t want us to get sick.”
#3 LET THEM FEEL THEIR POWER. Kids have a Choice & Control Bucket that needs a daily deposit. So, whenever able, let them feel their power. Show them what they can do to help the situation: Wash their hands often. Clean a doorknob or light switch with a cleaning wipe. Walk the dogs. Share toys. Be kind to their siblings. Allow them to choose: “Who do you want to call right now: Grandma and Grandpa or Uncle, Aunt, and Cousins?” “We have an hour. Do you want to read a book or draw a picture for an elderly church member?” In all of these ways and more, we can empower kids in this time.
#4 LOOK FOR THE HELPERS. Fred Rogers, an ordained Presbyterian minister, famously said, “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’ To this day, I remember my mother’s words and I am always comforted by realizing that there are so many caring people in the world.” Sage advice from Mr. Rogers.
If your kids (or you) are worried, point to the scientists, doctors, nurses, and countless others working to solve this problem. Highlight the people who are doing good: Kind people helping strangers, neighbors checking on neighbors, and generous people donating money. Your kids (and you) should feel reassured.
#5 PRAY. Number 5 is actually Number 1. It’s the first and best thing to do.
Yes, prayer is a holy mystery; any answer to prayer is left to a sovereign, wise, and loving God. But I believe we can make a real, concrete, tangible difference in the lives of others when we pray for them.
Also, when we pray for others, we often discover a happy by-product: We feel better ourselves. We feel lighter, stronger, and more hopeful. Prayer not only benefits those who are prayed for; it also benefits those who do the praying.
With all this in mind, I encourage you to pray. Pray often. Pray with and for your kids, in good times and bad, in every circumstance and season of life. As the apostle Paul writes: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7).
May the peace of Christ be with you!
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