SOMETHING that has certainly come up in our house quite a bit over the last few months has been the challenge of how we speak to our girls about what is happening in the world and how much we tell them about all that is going on. As much as I would like to shield them from what is taking place in the wider world, I just can’t.
I don’t have the radio on much when we are all at home so we don’t hear the news or radio, partly so that they don’t hear and partly so I don’t either, if I’m being purely honest.
However, there is no doubt that children are inquisitive, and we have no control over what they hear or say among their friends. Children talk and that could lead to those that hear bits of stories or embellished tales being left confused, worried and upset as they sit in school stewing over what they have heard.
I remember when this whole pandemic kicked off, I think at some stage we were all ‘victims’ of fake news stories that flew around WhatsApp groups, and children on a school yard can end up much the same.
There is a need to inform your children with regards to what is going on in the world, so that when they hear stories bandied around it doesn’t make them feel worried or frightened.
However, you need to make sure you tell them an age appropriate version of the facts so they don’t end up confused and scared by what you tell them too. It’s a very delicate balance, we need to inform children but we need to make sure that they feel safe and secure.
And that has been a challenge too, in the face of such uncertainty it is sometimes hard for parents to put on a brave face when we may be contending with job loses, missing family, some might have family experiencing sickness which brings about a whole new set of lonely challenges under the current circumstances, and many people are suffering with their mental health. More than ever, we want to shield our children from the harsh realities of the big, bad world; we might put on a happy face when they are around and try to hide our sadness, our worries and our concerns from them.
But children are intuitive, they can tell when parents are not themselves and it is no harm to let them know if you are going through a hard time. I’m not saying you have to tell children what you’re going through, but explaining your feelings is a great thing to do. It reassures children too that if they are feeling sad or worried that it is normal.
It can bring a certain amount of harmony to a household, the parent doesn’t have to spend their day trying to hide how they feel and it helps the child develop a sense of empathy and patience that is so important.
We are all busy but it is important to set aside a little time in the day or week to chat to your children and let them air any concerns they may have, or to ask questions that might be on their mind. We all know we should do that, but the days are busy and the weeks fly by, so just make sure to check in with children now more than ever. Make sure to give them the time and space to ask their questions if you are giving them information. Children may ask the same questions over and over because that is what they do when they are worried and perhaps struggling to process all that is going on.
Try to do it at a time where you can sit with them and not rush through their concerns.
It is important too that parents aren’t afraid to say ‘I don’t know’, we don’t know a lot of things about all this and that’s OK to admit too.
When you are speaking to children about the events of the world, stick to facts, not hearsay and rumours.
If they are old enough to want to read the news, let them access a balanced news website and not threads on Facebook.
Our primary objective really is to reassure children — regardless of what is happening in the world they are mainly concerned with their own worlds so focus on what is good and what is safe — their schools are safe, their teachers are there to mind them, we as parents are keeping them safe by sticking to the rules and to good hygiene practises.
Remind your children that it is normal to be concerned or worried in these unprecedented times. Some might respond well to some mindfulness or relaxation techniques such as taking deep breaths to help calm them down or having a quiet spot to colour or do a puzzle so they can process their thoughts calmly.
And some parents might respond well to those techniques too, it is undoubtedly an incredibly stressful, worrying and unusual time for us all.