How to speak to children about social distancing
Updated: Apr 11, 2020
Some children may find it easier than others to adjust to the new restrictions in place to help manage COVID-19.
Where possible, ensure that they still have a structure and routine. Homeschooling can be really hard, there are a lot of fantastic resources online including the BBC website.
Creating a timetable to structure the day will help to replicate a school setting as much as possible. If you can, set up a 'school zone' for where they will do their work. Reward good behaviour with pocket money for a tuck shop which you can stock with small treats.
Joe Wicks is doing a live "PE class" every day on YouTube at 9am Monday-Friday. He adapts workouts to make them simple for kids to do in your living room. Exercise is a great way to help expel some energy and it helps to increase focus and massively increases our mental well being. Joining in with your children helps also role model healthy behaviour.
Some children will naturally be confused about the situation and may show some anxiety. Make it known to them that it is ok to talk about how they feel. Allow them the space to express their worries and anxiety. Acknowledge how they feel but try to not talk too much about your own anxieties, make sure you have your own space later to process these. Tell them "It's really ok that you are not ok right now".
Explore what they are sad/ scared about. Is it missing friends? Getting ill?
Try reframing their worries. If they talk about being scared about getting the virus and giving it to someone else, reframe this and praise them for having so much empathy that they care about the wellbeing of other people. Encourage them that this is such a great personal quality and maybe one day they could look into a career in which they could use this e.g. medical or social care.
If they are feeling sad about not seeing their friends, acknowledge how it is hard and that you imagine their friends are also missing them. Try to reach out to other parents so that you can schedule in time with their friends via video messaging services such as Zoom (individual or group video calls) or Houseparty (can play games whilst video calling).
There is a lot of shared anxiety in society, through the news and social media. Its ok if you are feeling some anxiety yourself, this is a very strange and unfamiliar situation. Be kind to yourself, don't expect to have all the answer or solutions. Try to take one day at a time, focus on the present and what you can do today to support your children and yourself through this.
Having these sorts of conversations with children about their anxiety is fantastic, it is normalising that it is ok to have feelings. You are encouraging them to voice their concerns in a safe place with no judgment. This will have long term benefits on their mental health in the future! This whole situation is an amazing opportunity to help kids develop emotional awareness and grow into empathic, caring adults.