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How do we talk to children and keep them calm during the COVID-19 pandemic?

Talking to children and keeping them calm during the COVID-19 pandemic.{ } Thursday, March 26, 2020. (ABC7 photo){ }
Talking to children and keeping them calm during the COVID-19 pandemic. Thursday, March 26, 2020. (ABC7 photo)
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It’s one of the many challenges facing parents in our new reality.

How do we talk to our children about the coronavirus, and how do we keep them calm when we are managing our own anxieties?

Alison Starling brought together a variety of experts and parents to get your questions answered.

Like many families all across America, friends Arlen Gaines and Meredith Polsky and their families are living in tight quarters, with questions swirling from their children.

"We found it really challenging to figure out how to talk about it with our kids in a way that was real and honest but didn’t exacerbate fear and anxiety," Polsky told ABC7.

So, this special education teacher and social worker joined forces to write a children’s book, simply titled “I have a question about coronavirus.”

"What we know about children is they have this amazing ability to sense what’s going on and as adults, we often try to cushion difficult subjects by not talking about them but really when we don’t talk about these topics it can make it more scary for the child to sense something going on but not to be told explicitly," co-author Arlen Gaines says.

These authors say the key is to comfort your children about their daily routines.

Polsky adds “they’re really worried about what their day is gonna look like, how is this gonna affect them, how are they gonna know what to do now, what to do next and whether or not things will ever be the way they were.”

Many moms, now doubling as teachers, say the conversations can be very challenging.

Erin Washington agrees.

“My kids don’t understand it, they don’t know what’s going on. I’m trying to put on a brave face like this could be fine, this is so much fun.”

Pediatrician Dr. Hanita Oh-tan recommends that as you’re navigating homeschooling, working, and emotional support, look for signs your kids may need to talk.

“It might not be them telling you mommy I’m worried, but it could be simple things like not sleeping good, appetite going down, getting a little more whiney and clingy, so keep the lines of communication open.”

Reassurance and a little T-L-C can go a long way to help your children rest easier.

Gaines says "there are some children who will regress in certain ways, they may withdraw, they may be more irritable, so we want to think about what is comforting in a child’s life on a good day, what can we bring to this time that works for them in other challenging moments?"

That book is available to download online for free here.

And for parents who are feeling overwhelmed, there is a crisis text line. Just text “home” to 741741 and you can text confidentially with a crisis counselor for free.

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For more info on the crisis text line click here.

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