My fiancé and I have four sons, ages 13, 14, 15 and 16. They all have different styles, and that’s never been more apparent than the past few weeks and talking about the news.
One son asks several times a day, “Is there any news about the news?” Another son listens to conversations, but he doesn’t engage. A third son tunes us out when the topic comes up. And the fourth has directly asked, “Can we talk about something else?”
Parenting is an ever-moving target. Just when I think I have it figured out, my boys change. I try to change in response–and I try to meet each of their unique needs as best I can. I’m grateful that they accept my parenting as a “work in progress.”
Here are some tips for talking with kids about complicated things like COVID-19.
• Set aside a comfortable time and space to talk, such as a few minutes after dinner.
• Talk respectfully, warmly and openly. Look your kids in the eye so they know you are focused on them.
• Keep it simple for little ones. For a preschooler, give them the basics: Be extra careful to wash hands, not kiss on the mouth, and cover coughs and sneezes.
• Give a little more detail to older kids. For an elementary or middle schooler, you can give more of a discussion: Here’s what the disease is as far as we know, its transmission and strategies to contain the spread.
• Make things relevant. Explain things as they affect your family, for example why you’re buying some extra groceries.
• When talking about challenging things, remember that faith and fear are similar. They both ask us to believe in something that hasn’t happened yet. Rather than being fearful of something that hasn’t happened yet, choose faith and believe that good things are going to happen.
• Seek to reassure. Our children now more than ever are looking to parents for calm amid the chaos. Show them that you are taking steps to keep them safe. Tell them that you love them—now and always. The message you want to convey is, “I am doing my best to care for you and everyone we love.”
Jennifer Bright is a mom of four sons, co-founder and CEO of family- and veteran- owned custom publisher Momosa Publishing, co-founder of the Mommy MD Guides team of 150+ mommy M.D.s, and co-author of “The Mommy MD Guide to the Toddler Years.” She lives in Hellertown.