In light of the spread of Coronavirus in the Frum community and world at large, we would like to offer some guidelines in maintaining calm in a time of panic, particularly as it relates to guiding our children at home during this time. For any medical concerns or guidance, please consult your medical professional.
Given the rapid spread of the virus there are a number of aspects that contribute to our panic:
- The virus is something that can, and has, gotten passed between people causing us to feel vulnerable as potential victims as well as be forced to isolate ourselves.
- In the age of social media, however frightening the situation is in reality, the panic gets multiplied and shared at rapid speed, even if we are not seeking out the information.
- When panic hits on a communal level it vastly increases the anxiety of each individual, as we often look to our neighbors to keep us calm – but today they can?t.
As it pertains to communicating with our children, there are a couple of points to focus on, much of which was adapted from the phone conference by Dr. Norman Blumenthal on 3.3.20:
- Children read us like books. Our body language and tone communicate far more than the actual words we say. Therefore, before attempting to discuss and calm down our children, we should do the proper research and form our personal approach to the issue. Only afterwards, should we communicate, with confidence and conviction, to our children. If your child initiates and you feel unprepared, it is OK to tell them you are still researching and formulating your understanding, but it is crucial to follow up efficiently.
- When discussing the topic, it is appropriate to express concern, but necessary to avoid being in panic mode- panic leads to increased anxiety NOT responsible behavior.
- We should try, to the best of our ability, to convey consistent messages to our children. If they hear the same approach of healthy concern but not panic from all those they look up to, they will buy into that approach much more readily.
So, what DO we tell our children?
With the routine being so vastly different than their norm, even young children understand something is going on. The most important thing we can do for them is to maintain a calm, positive, and warm environment. Additionally, children thrive on structure and predictability- try to formulate some daily structure for them. Calmly, focus more on hygiene, but in a playful manner. If there is a need to change their course of behavior, do not just say no, but provide them with a better alternative (i.e. instead of putting fingers in your mouth, play with this toy). Even at this young age, they read our body language. Be sure to give praise when they act appropriately- it is helpful to praise even those activities which to us seem routine (i.e. washing hands properly and sneezing into a tissue).
School-Aged Children (6-12):
To this age group, we should explain that people are concerned for many reasons, at the forefront of which is that this is unfamiliar and developing. Continue to focus and convey the importance of appropriate hygiene and social distancing. Again, modeling proper behavior is crucial. It is typical for this age group to be curious and ask many questions, they are trying to differentiate between fact and fiction. Be sure to validate the fears, but try to calm them down as much as possible. Be a resource for them- let them know that if they hear something scary or feel scared they can always come to you.
This age group typically has access to and are engaged by the media. Do NOT get involved in the blaming game or political arguments, instead provide them structure and concrete courses of action to take the necessary precautions. Recognize that there is still much developing, our job is to take the precautions of the health experts but that beyond that life goes on and we are not in control. Again, structure is essential.
Giving children too much time to sit around idle and engage in the media will lead to increased anxiety- try to keep them busy!
If you feel your child is experiencing anxiety that is interfering with their daily activities you should consult with a mental health professional. Please feel free to reach out to us at Madraigos Midwest with any questions or concerns you may have at 773-478-6000.