Your children may appear to think the most recent rush of school closings are one big party, but under the surface many of them are terrified that this is the end of the world. Here are some tips to help use this as an opportunity to build their strength and resilience. If you are experiencing anxiety, the tips that follow will help you to help yourself as well:
1) First and foremost, lead by example. If you treat this like the end of the world, they will react accordingly. Like Cesar Milan always says “Be a calm, assertive pack leader” (yes, yes he’s The Dog Whisperer, but he’s also one of the greatest “parenting experts” of all time).
2) Talk to them. Ask them if they are worried. They won’t tell you unless you ask because mostly they are worried about YOU (they think you’re elderly lol) and their grandparents. Tell them you are not worried one bit (even if you are scared out of your mind, keep that to yourself) and reassure them that you are all taking proper precautions to avoid illness. I promise asking them to share their fears will not suddenly instill fear in them. If you do not talk to them about it, that’s when they start to worry.
3) Keep news and other media exposure to a minimum. This is good advice for the adults too.
4) “Little pitchers have big ears.” Be careful not to have adult conversations within earshot.
5) As for shortages on the store shelves – take them shopping with you. Show them what happens when people panic unnecessarily. This may sound like a bad idea but it’s a perfect time for you to reassure them you are well-stocked at home and they will not do without. It’s also a great time to talk to them about the difference between needs and wants.
6) While you are shopping pick up a few extra items and bring them to an elderly neighbor or family member who may not be able to get out. In fact, let them pick out the items to share.
7) Leave stuff on the shelves. Explain to them that you have everything you need and that you are leaving something behind for people who do not. Reassure them that this is a temporary situation. For older kids in the Northeast, you can remind them about how it was after Sandy. Tell them how it was after a hurricane or any other disaster that affected your region. If they aren’t old enough to remember, tell them the story. In the end, everything went back to normal, right?
8) While you’re stocking up on TP and hand sanitizer, pick up some jigsaw puzzles and board games as well as baking supplies (kids love to bake and it is very relaxing and productive). This is an excellent time to get everyone off their electronics and hang out together as a family.
9) Make a phone list of people who may be alone and frightened right now. As a family you can call and check on them. Your kids can come up with some good jokes or stories to tell them. Stock up on art supplies and have your kids do some artwork for them. This is not just for younger kids — I know some HS kids who have amazing artistic talent.
10) I am finding that the kids I work with are fascinated by the concept that they are living history right now. When you tell them that never before has the entire world — every single county — battled the same enemy at the same time and that some day they will be telling their children and grandchildren about this — and you say it like you MEAN it — they actually get excited.
11) Seize this opportunity — you will never have a better time to teach life skills and resilience. Lead by example and most of all – take good care of yourself and stay well!!!
~ Mary Calamia is a licensed clinical social worker who specializes in children and adolescents