Over the past week, we have all had to ask ourselves some difficult questions. We have had to get used to a new normal.
We do not know what the next couple of weeks/months might look like, or when life as we knew it will return.
As hard as it is for us to wrap our heads around what is going on, our children will have questions for us. Why are we not going to school? I’m not sick, so why can’t my friends come over to play? Why is the aquarium/zoo/science center not an option for us this weekend??
They are both innocent and naive to the struggles in the larger world right now, but they are well aware that their world has been affected.
So while we are all trying to navigate this new normal, here are a few tips for how you can help the littlest people in your life cope with what is going on.
Process how you are feeling about the situation first
When difficult times hit, it is inevitable that we will have our feelings about it. After all, we are ALL going through struggles right now.
Take a moment and make sure you have a handle on how you are expressing these feelings. Our children will always take cues from us so if we are worried, they will worry themselves. While some of this worry is normal and to be expected, you don’t want to overly concern your kids with things they don’t need to themselves worry about.
Allow your child to guide the conversation
Start by asking your child to share with you the information they already know about the situation. Ask them what they heard and what questions they may have.
Do your best not to offer more detail than necessary. Help them to process what they are feeling.
As adults, most of us have figured out how to work through our emotions when these situations take place. Our children have yet to learn this and will need our help.
Limit media access
During times like this, news media outlets tend to be hyper-focused on providing details, and this information can be really scary for little ones. As a parent, you want to maintain control over the information that they are receiving.
For children specifically, it can be very difficult to process the material they are witnessing through media coverage, and much of it is not information they need anyway. Making sure that you are the one to share this information ensures that you are able to support them as well.
Look for the helpers
Fred Rogers, aka “Mr. Rogers,” was famously quoted as saying, “When I was a young 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.’”
For small children, this is a wonderful way to address stressful events. Talk about stories of heroism. Discuss how the front-line workers are able to help the people who need them. While we can’t prevent situations like from occurring, knowing there will always be people around to help can be comforting for children.
As always, if you need additional resources or support during this time, please make sure you seek the help of a mental health professional in your community.
Jmore parenting columnist Talya Knable is a psychotherapist who lives in Lutherville with her husband, Stephen, and their two children, Jack and Leigh. Her website is tkpsych.com/. She is also the assistant clinical director of Shalom Tikvah (shalomtikvah.org/), a local non-profit organization that supports Jewish families facing mental illness and other challenging life circumstances.
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