Written by Nalina Ramalakshmi and published on 13 May 2021.
With so much uncertainty due to the novel coronavirus pandemic, your child is probably dealing with a whole bunch of fears. What can you do to soothe your anxious child during these uncertain times?
Today, there is so much talk, fear, and panic about the novel coronavirus all around us. Turn on the news, go to social media, chat with your friends all you hear is how the coronavirus is spreading to people, killing people, shutting down schools, malls, theaters, restaurants, and even organizations. Add to this, young children have wild imaginations. They wonder if and when this evil-corona-creature will come and get them or their loved ones. This can be really scary for children.
When there is an actual threat or a perceived threat, our brain responds with an inbuilt survival instinct that is meant to protect us from danger. Our emotions take over and shut down our ability to think clearly or rationally. So, trying to reason with a child who is feeling scared or anxious doesn't help.
Sometimes, we parents add to our children's fears when we say things like, "Be careful, wash your hands", "Don't touch this". "You may get infected", "Don't go out, you may catch the virus," and so on. But your child needs you to make him feel safe and secure in this time of global corona-panic.
The first step is to take care of your own fears and anxiety before you can deal with your anxious child. Get the facts about the virus from reliable sources. List out all the things that are making you anxious and see if and what you can do about each of them. You may realize that the situation is manageable, and this will help you better handle your fears and anxiety.
Here are some of the signs that tell you that your child is fearful or anxious about the COVID-19 virus:
Your child is:
Other signs of anxiety include:
If you notice any of these signs, just acknowledging your child's fear and letting him talk about it will help your child feel better.
Caution: When the fear or anxiety is extreme and overwhelming, your child may have a panic attack. She may have difficulty breathing and it may feel like she is losing control of her body. If your child is having panic attacks that are interfering with her day-to-day life and school, seek the help of a professional counselor or psychologist.
If your child is dealing with normal fears and anxieties during these uncertain times, your support and understanding will help her gradually overcome her fears.
We are facing unprecedented times where life seems to have turned upside down and no one seems to know what to expect next. Your child too will have many anxious questions. Here are some commonly asked questions and some pointers on how you could respond to them:
1. Your child asks: Why can't I go to school? Why do we have to stay home all day? Why can't we go to the mall?
What not to say: Because the government says we have to be home. The coronavirus is dangerous, it spreads easily, and we can fall sick.
Your child thinks: This is scary stuff. We are all going to get sick and maybe die.
What to say instead: The virus survives only when it can live inside people's bodies. When we stay home, we are hiding in a place where the virus can't find us. If all of us hide, the virus can't find people to go live inside their bodies. The virus will then die. We all want to kill the virus before it can hurt more people.
Your child thinks: If I stay home, I am also a warrior fighting this evil virus.
2. Your child asks: Will I fall sick? Will you fall sick? Will grandma fall sick?
What not to say: Don't be so worried. We are going to be fine.
Your child thinks: But everyone around me is so worried and I'm worried. Why cant my parents understand me?
What to say instead: I know it is so worrying when you hear all the talk about the coronavirus. We are all concerned too. But we are taking good care of ourselves by washing our hands, staying away from crowded places, and eating healthy to keep our bodies strong. This way we are ensuring we stay healthy and not fall sick.
Your child thinks: My mom/dad understands my worries. We are all taking care of ourselves, so we don't fall sick.
3. Your child asks: What will happen if I am quarantined? Will you be there for me?
What not to say: Why are you thinking all that? You will be fine.
Your child thinks: But I'm scared. I don't like being alone without mom or dad.
What to say instead: I can see you are scared of being alone. If you do get sick and have to be kept in isolation, I will be there to keep you safe and comfortable.
Your child thinks: My mom/dad will be there to take care of me.
Here are more tips on talking to your child about the COVID-19 virus: