BRYAN, Texas — COVID-19 is spreading and children know that schools are closing and some are moving to online classes for the rest of the semester. The Girl Scouts of America say it is crucial that parents address the information their children have received and discredit any false information to mitigate any potential fear and anxiety.
Researchers, doctors, and child psychologists at the Girl Scout Research Institute (GSRI) have created resources to guide parents and caregivers as they talk to their children about the pandemic.
This conversation will differ between children depending on age, emotional maturity, and the child's knowledge and understanding of the pandemic.
The GSRI suggests parents and caregivers begin the conversation by asking what their child has heard about coronavirus and how they are feeling.
The GSRI recommends parents who are discussing COVID-19 with their children should:
- Let them know that feelings of fear, sadness, anger, and even confusion are totally normal in times like these
- Never lead into the conversation by asking if they’re scared or upset. If they’re not already feeling that way, there’s no need to suggest that they should
- Answer questions about things they are observing—like face masks—in an age-appropriate and accurate way. · Not be afraid to admit you don’t have all the answers! Turn to the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and other trusted resources, if ever you’re not sure about what you’re hearing in the news or what your child is hearing on the playground.
- Address stereotypes or generalizations that have been made about who “started” coronavirus or who might be most likely to have it. Sadly, in times of fear, people often look for someone to blame. Remind your child that a person’s skin color, the language they speak, and the country their family comes from has nothing to do with the amount of respect and kindness they deserve in this world and that there is no type of person more likely to have or get the virus than others.
- Empower them to know that all personal contact with others should be governed by their own comfort level.
- Set the expectation that this conversation can continue as the days and weeks go by. If your child thinks of questions they forgot to ask, you’re here to help.
In addition to having these conversations, the GSRI reminds parents that the "power of the basics" can go a long way in keeping a child's world calm and steady as possible. This includes doubling down on routines like mealtimes, bedtime rituals, and quality family time.
Indications that a child may have increased levels of anxiety include, excessive crying, irritation, unhealthy eating or sleeping habits, difficulty paying attention, and unexplained headaches or body pains. According to the CDC, children and teens react, in part, on what they see from the adults around them. When parents and caregivers deal with the COVID-19 calmly and confidently, they can provide the best support for their children. Parents can be more reassuring to others around them, especially children, if they are better prepared.