The "SaY" Magazine
How to talk to your kids about the Corona Virus
We’ve had a school cat with the ‘dreaded flu’, another day Unicorn-corona was sucking the magic powers from all of Uniland (cookies are the only cure). One day the Christmas Elves were attending the funeral of a Ghost who died (again) after a freak boat-tobogganing accident near Pirate Island, but Ghostie’s best Elf friend couldn’t attend because he had coronavirus.
The best talking about COVID-19 with my children has mostly been not talking. It’s come from lots of pretend play, from stories & storytelling, from listening and from some kitchen dance sessions.
Kids are geiger counters for stress, they have their own, they soak up ours, they feel the world’s, and store it in their bodies. We have to help them release their pressure valves, and our own.
Many days of meltdowns later (from all of us!) I’m realising that’s not a one-time deal.
Here’s some of what I’ve found helpful in more directly addressing kids’ anxieties about the virus and what’s going on:
DON’T TALK — LISTEN
Start by asking your kids what they’ve heard about the virus, you might be, as I was, surprised by how much they’ve heard, and how far the kid-rumours swirl. Let them surface their darkest fears, or even their indifference.
TALK — CALM & CLEAR
Remind them that top scientists & government are on the case, and that we are doing our bit to keep everyone safe by staying home and staying as clean as possible.
DON’T TALK — DO
Think of ways to make them feel empowered and capable, helping with donations to a food bank, video-calling an elderly relative, drawing a rainbow to put up in your window in support of health carers.
DON’T TALK — DANCE
Physical release is important for all of us, a bit of roughhouse playing or dancing around the kitchen table will help shake off fears and feelings and bring back the fun.
DON’T TALK — PLAY
Give them lots and lots of space for make believe, pretend play and creative writing. Storytelling allows kids to process fears with a safe distance. And don’t admonish them for using self-isolation and infection or even death in their imaginary play — they aren’t making light of things, they are working through their fears and worries, playing them away.
Change is hard enough at the best of times. But this is sea-change. Global, terrifying, surreal. And while a tragic tsunami unfolds outside our doors, all our old eddies of stress remain and get intensified. Even if they are tide-pools in comparison, they can still feel oceans-deep at times. And that’s allowed. You have to allow it. For yourself and the kids.
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I have to keep reminding myself goal is not to get all the worries and fears out the way so we can get on with crafting a perfect homeschooling schedule while brewing our own kombucha and getting work done in record time.
It’s not to get to days with no upset, it’s to hold space for them, and not to take them personally. The more I can do that, feel my feelings and theirs and then just let them float away when they are done, the more it stops little leaks becoming chain-reaction floods.
Spin A Yarn India is always there and still free for storytelling fun. I’m going to try and use our regular inbox missives of make believe to help support kids and families through (sign up here). Meanwhile keep sharing your kids’ stories with me, I love to celebrate their creations on instagram or on our podcast.