Let me start off by saying that this is not a comprehensive list of the do’s and don’ts when it comes to COVID19 and your kids. Nor am I any sort of expert in parenting, I’m just a Mum trying to find my way in a rapidly changing world who thought she would share her thoughts, and what she's been doing, in the hopes that it helps just one other person.
I am worried (even sometimes terrified) about what all of this may be doing and do to my kid’s mental health, especially now that we have been in Stage 4 for a few weeks (we live in Melbourne). I am crossing my fingers that come September 13th, this changes! If not, you'll find me hiding in my walk-in robe.
I'm not kidding.
I’ve spent so much time whinging and moaning about how annoying this is for me. I’ve spent countless hours bitching to my friends and family about how much of an inconvenience COVID is, but I don't think I can honestly say that I have spent anywhere near enough time talking about how this is effecting my kids.
In order to do so though, I realised that I had to start looking at the emotional and mental challenges that I was dealing with first.
Why, you ask?
Well, If I have learnt anything over the last few years, since my car accident, it is that if I don’t look after me first, I won’t be able to do jack for my family. It’s the oxygen mask thing all over again!
As unnatural as it feels you need to put your mask on first.
I've had a lot of conversations with girlfriends and family which involved a lot of reality checks. The main thing that I have taken from it though is that I cannot control everything and that I need to put my energy into the things that I can control, especially when it comes to my kids.
It's always been an issue of mine though. I'm a self diagnosed Miss Fix It!
It’s shit to be in a situation that you can’t fix, and this is exactly what this is. But I have to change my frame of mind because not only am I going bat shit crazy, I can see the change in the kids. And not necessarily for the better either.
So what am I going to do, you ask?
FOCUS ON THE THINGS THAT I CAN CONTROL FOR MY KIDS, WHEN IT COMES TO COVID
I can control this to an extent. I regularly remind the kids to wash their hands, I can remind them to sanitize and I can show them how it's done.
Another thing I can control and also lead by example, by showing the kids what that really means. No sneaky visits where we shouldn't, sticking to 1.5 metres apart when we are out of the house and even having those difficult convos where they see someone doing the wrong thing and wonder why they can’t do it too - this happens WAY to often!
Be honest and open
This is something I really don’t struggle with often but what I need to concentrate on is showing the kids that it is ok to talk about all of it, whether it's good or bad! It’s ok to be sad, upset and even angry. Most importantly making sure that they know that all these feelings are better out, and dealt with, where possible, than bottled up.
What I know
It’s cheesy I know, but it is true - Knowledge IS power. Educating myself, and not just relying on what the media, or even my friends and family, are saying. Having that knowledge, myself, allows me to have frank and realistic conversations with the kidlets about exactly what is going on (in a way that is appropriate for each of them, of course).
The biggest lesson I am learning is that when I am, and even the kids are, feeling really overwhelmed with the daily updates and negativity that surrounds COVID19 . That I need to switch off our devices and the t.v. (or simply change the channel), because listening to the latest information every second of every day is taxing, emotionally AND mentally! It has been doing my head in - so I just don’t do it anymore.
The kids were getting too involved and they weren't really even sure what it all meant. Now, I just hop onto Facebook or a news website and get the information I am specifically looking for and get out of there.
HOW DO I TALK TO MY KIDS ABOUT COVID19
Find out what they know
I’ve been really worried about forcing my worries onto the kids and I think it’s really important that I don't do that. I want to find out what they know before dishing out an information overload. I’m now careful to ask questions about what they already know before just offering up the information.
I’ve also found that is just a number, there are many other factors that come into deciding what I need to talk to each kid about.
What have they heard? Do they actually know what is happening? Better yet, do they understand what's happening? Have they heard someone say something off the cuff?
Make the time to talk
So many times we have good intentions. We mean to do something and it just never happens. For me, this CANNOT be like one of those times. Whether an actual time needs to be set aside each week or not I don't know, but I do know that the conversation needs to be had…. and more than once! With each of them!
We all swing between feelings of fear about the future, worry around what is happening, anger over everything changing or being upset over what is happening or not being able to see friends and family. I want them to know that this is completely normal. That none of us know what is going to happen and whilst that's crappy, it’s important that they know that we are all in this together, that we will get through it together.
USE OTHER RESOURCES
Sometimes the best thing we can do is admit that we are in over our heads and get help.
Look for resources!
I found a really cute video that gives a brief explanation at the boys level, they don't tend to ask scientific questions. You can check it out here if you think it might benefit one of your kids.
My kids are watching Behind The News for school activities and there is a great episode recently that discussed COVID19 and all of the emotions different children are feeling. It's the first 5 minutes and then there's a lot of other topics.
Dr Ariana Krynen a Clinical Psychologist/Scientia PhD Scholar from UNSW (University of New South Wales) Science is in this video which gives you some tips on how you might talk to YOUR kids about COVID.