COVID-19 | Your Children’s Thoughts Will Surprise You
Country borders are closing. Universities are being shut down. Local schools are telling students not to attend. Grocery stores have empty shelves. And the news speaks of nothing else besides the novel coronavirus. As markets plummet and numbers of those diagnosed climb (and fear over the lives of the elderly and immunocompromised set in), the uncertainty is palpable.
For the last two weeks, I have cared primarily about the health and well-being of my elderly parents in hard-hit Massachusetts. I’ve worried about canceling school and community presentations for Crime Stoppers of Houston and I’ve worried what “home schooling” could look like for this mom of three. But aside from my kids’ change in schedule and our having to cancel Spring Break plans, I have not really stopped to ask if my kids were okay or even frightened? I haven’t ignored them; I just have been managing the largest issues first and knowing that they will be fine. I’ve silently taken care of them.
But this last Thursday, our Styling Social Justice podcast interviewed Randi Rubenstein - parenting coach (and “expert in being human” if you ask me...). In doing so, I started to reflect on my children and whether or not they had real fears about the virus and its impact in their lives. I went home to ask them and here’s what they said:
My middle schooler said she is very concerned about missing school, having to repeat this grade or being forced to take summer school. All such valid concerns and all really struck me. While I thought these kids would just be happy to be home, she was really worried about her future. Additionally, she is actively worried her grandparents will fall ill; she explains she understands how dangerous it could be for them.
My upper elementary school child (my most carefree child) - very honestly didn’t have a care in the world... so I’ll move on...
My youngest and lower elementary school child is the one I thought was least aware of what was going on but shared the most concerns. She was worried about school - how would she do her assignments? Would the whole class FaceTime? How would the teacher know if she was raising her hand? How would she take her spelling test? What about her grandparents? They were already dealing with other health issues... What about me and Ramy, she wondered? What would happen to her if we got sick? She was afraid to go out, scared of people who wore masks and frightened by the sight of things like empty grocery store shelves... will we go without food, she wondered.
It was all so eye-opening.
While your children will have different reactions, I think it’s clear we must all stop to talk to our kids about their personal reactions and feeling. Randi gave us valuable talking points during our sit-down with her; I also went on to read and research additional talking points that might help you navigate your own “at-home” conversations:
Decide on your goals. This will vary based on your child’s age and personality but decide if the point of your discussion is to share real information, calm their fears, teach them about resilience, explain facts, etc.
Once you have that in place, form a game plan of how you’ll approach each topic and in what order.
But don’t be rigid. Ask questions and LISTEN. Don’t just listen, actively listen. Repeat what you’ve heard them say in a conversational format and ask them for solutions to questions they may have.
In addition to their solutions, come up with family solutions. What would we do if the grocery stores shut down? Do they realize how much food you may have in your pantry or freezer? Knowledge is power and, in this case, comfort.
Talk through the hype - no travel, stock market crashing, no hand sanitizer? What does it all mean and how does it really impact them?
Avoid my mistakes - don’t rush to tell them every single thing would be fine, so they are not worried. Be honest and give them real solutions. Be reassuring.
Avoid encouraging frightening fantasies and don’t bring your anxiety to the conversation. As Randi told us “calm people solve problems.” Mirror this.
Try to create a routine in the midst of these uncertain times. Have them read every day, do crafts or projects, figure out their schooling, have social time with friends on the phone or FaceTime. Get games that bring you all together to play, watch a movie together at home but put all these things in the form of a routine.
And keep talking. Let them know the lines of communication are open, always.
What an extraordinary time we are living through. I’ll tell you that we’ve asked our children to all write about what they notice, what they are feeling, what they are hearing and seeing in their diaries so, one day, when people talk about the global pandemic of 2020, they can look back at how they felt about it in childhood. They’ll never regret the time they took to do so and you’ll never regret the management of your most precious belongings (your children) during a time when not much else can be managed.
For now, wishing you and yours a healthy and SAFE next few weeks. Please share your conversations and ideas - we want to hear from you!
Read past Sunday Mornings with Rania posts here. Find more information on Crime Stoppers of Houston on their website or follow them on Facebook. Have topics in mind that you’d like Rania to write about? Comment below or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Rania is co-host of a weekly podcast which features interesting local and national guests who used their platforms for the good of the community. Connect with Rania on Instagram and Twitter.