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How to Talk to Your Kids About Coronavirus (or anything difficult)

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I don’t watch the news.

Believe me, I’m not uninformed, I just choose not to willingly bring negativity into my life. On top of that, I’m an extremely visual person as well as an empath, so when I hear or see things, it seriously affects me and plays over and over in my mind and I can feel it in my body.

I get most of my current happenings from my very well-informed (and news-savvy) boyfriend as well as one of my best friends who’s a Captain in the U.S. Army--she probably knows more than most media outlets anyway.

When word of Coronavirus started going around, I asked my sources and stayed as informed as I felt I needed to be--I definitely didn’t mention anything to my nine and eleven-year-old.

Since we don’t have the news (or any TV) on in our home, I’m pretty sure they were happily unaware of what was going on around the globe--except for maybe what they heard from the whisperings of their friends on the elementary school playground.

However uninformed I choose to be, I’m also not in the business of sheltering my children. We talk about important issues like mental health, depression, anxiety, social media, and the importance of taking care of our bodies--among other topics I feel may be important for them to be informed on.

As the Coronavirus hit the U.S. and eventually our state, it was inevitable that they needed to be clued-in.

When I came home with a load of groceries much larger than my usual trips, I sat them down and said:

“Okay guys, let’s talk about what’s going on. I want to know your thoughts, how do you feel about the Coronavirus?”

In the past 48 hours, we’ve had a lot of discussion about what is going on and I thought I’d share with you some of my insight and how I’m choosing to handle this with them:

First and foremost, no matter what the situation is, my number one goal is always to empower my children.

I choose to empower them with tools to deal with their emotions, tools to effectively communicate; to empower them with permission to ask questions and speak up, and empower them with thought provoking conversation that allows them to feel loved, heard, safe and happy.

It’s also very important in our house to have open communication. My kids know they can come to me with tough questions.

Yesterday, my son asked, “Mom, how likely is it that we could die from Coronavirus?”

That’s a gut punch, but I’m proud of him for asking.

My answer was facts:

“Not likely buddy. From the reports I’ve read, the death rate is about 3% and that’s typically in people who are elderly, already sick or with existing health challenges. We’re all very healthy, and we will be just fine--even if we get it.”

I want my kids to know that I’m not going to sugar-coat things for them. They will get the facts, but they will also get those backed up with love and reassurance.

Question asking is a big thing in our house. I ask questions--a lot. I feel like it’s one of the most powerful forms of communication. I first talked to them about Coronavirus by asking them a question, and how they felt about it, then we expanded from there. I want to know where they’re at--where their heads and hearts are, instead of assuming. Asking questions is a powerful way to open communication about any subject.

I feel it’s also important (as always) to limit their exposure. As their mother, I want to be the one to deliver information to them. Not the media, not the press, not rumors from their friends. I limit and monitor all of their cell phone usage and media exposure (thanks to Bark.com) and ensure that if they want information, they know where to get it--from me. As confused as I am with the messages out there, I know they would be even more confused and most likely unnecessarily scared. There is a lot of information--false and true--that they just don’t need to consume.

Not gonna lie, there have been a few moments where I’ve wanted to break down in tears. I’m a single mom. My parents live in another state. My kids’ Dad lives in another state. At the moment, my boyfriend is also in another state attending a family funeral. I’m basically all alone. The media can be heavy. The financial burden is heavy. The possibilities are heavy. But I’m CHOOSING faith over fear. My mental health, well being and positive attitude are crucial for my kids right now. This is not the first time I’ve had to be really really brave, and I’m making sure I’m taking care of me so I can effectively take care of them.

As I began to stock my pantry and refrigerator, I talked to them about the importance of being prepared and that it’s only a precaution and nothing to be afraid of. Reassuring them of our safety and well being is key in keeping fear at bay. I likened it to having an umbrella on a cloudy day--you hope you don’t need it, but if you get caught in the rain, you’re grateful you have it.

When the world turns upside down, I believe it's an opportunity to see both the very best and the very worst in people. We talk a lot about how we treat people, how our actions and words make others feel. How we are not the only ones on this planet and we help and pitch in where and when it’s needed. I talked to them about the importance of empathy and being kind to each other during these next few weeks, picking up after ourselves (so I don’t go insane) and being conscious of our words and actions--this is not news to them but we revisited it anyway.

As we ventured out today to pick up a few more necessities (like crickets for my son’s lizard--my least favorite errand), they got to witness first-hand empty grocery shelves, long lines and people acting and reacting to the state of affairs. I’m glad they had this perspective--they know that there is a real situation happening, but also to see that we have what we need and that I’m making the proper steps to ensure our health, well-being and safety.

Gratitude is a daily topic in our house. In fact, throughout are fairly small condo, we have several pieces of artwork that mention gratitude. It’s our baseline. We’ve talked a lot about gratitude lately too. How grateful I am that my job is nearly 100% virtual (with the exception of photography), how my wellness company commission check paid for our grocery overstock (perfect timing), how blessed we are to be healthy and that I feel very well prepared. Gratitude always.

My daughter has plans to attend a birthday party tomorrow and we have spring break plans to visit Arizona next week. I told them to mentally prepare themselves for plans to change--it’s possible these fun activities may get cancelled. We’re hoping for the best and preparing for the worst. We talked about the importance of health and safety and how sometimes it’s really disappointing when plans change--it sucks but we’re going to be flexible. We hope those plans can move forward--but we talk about what is most important to us--health, safety, and family. If we have those things, we’re good.

And lastly, we’re having fun.

Yes, fun.

Is this a serious concern? Yes it is. They don’t close down the country for non-serious threats.

But it’s important for me to teach my children that we can always find joy in any situation.

We’re planning to ride bikes, bake cookies, laugh, tell jokes and play games.

I let them each pick out their favorite candy (yes I know sugar isn’t good for immune systems, but don’t worry we’ve got plenty for that too--it’s called balance) and we made homemade pizza and watched a funny movie tonight.

We’re going to make crafts and sing songs and be silly and fun.

I want them to know that no matter what, no matter where, no matter how… in any and every circumstance, we always have something to be grateful for and we can always choose to be happy.

In conclusion, here’s my advice to you:

  • Be real

  • Be open

  • Be vulnerable

  • ASK questions

  • Have faith

  • Be brave

  • Take care of yourself first

  • Be aware

  • Be reassuring

  • Be kind

  • Be flexible

  • Be grateful

  • Choose joy

Stay happy, healthy and safe my friends.

Xoxo

Sarah Marie

Photo by Benjamin Manley on Unsplash

#coronavirus #covid19

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