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March 23, 2020 Talking to Your Children in this Stressful Time

Karla Meikle, NDSU Extension, 4-H Youth Development

 

The Morton County Courthouse and Extension Office are currently open for business, but the buildings will be locked and visitors will be let in by appointment only. People should call ahead and attempt to complete their business via phone. If that is not possible, then they should make an appointment and the department staff will allow them into the building.

 

Talking Your Children During This Stressful Time

As we are in week two of many of our youth being home from school and as we try to find a new sense of normalcy, we are reminded that many of our youth do not have the coping mechanisms to deal with their new reality.  The National Association of School Psychologists has some great guidelines on how to work with youth in family settings or outside the home. Governor Burgum said it best when he stated “Facts not Fear”, keep this in mind when talking to your children about COVID-19. Remember this, your kids know more than we give them credit for in a lot of situations.  Help calm their fears and answer their questions.  If you don’t know the answer, reach out to the North Dakota Department of Health at https://www.health.nd.gov/ or contact the Center for Disease Control at https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html

You all know your children best.  Let their questions be your guide as to how much information to provide. However, don’t avoid giving them the information that health experts identify as critical to ensuring your children’s health. Be patient; children and youth do not always talk about their concerns readily. Watch for clues that they may want to talk, such as hovering around while you do the dishes or yard work. It is very typical for younger children to ask a few questions, return to playing, then come back to ask more questions. 

When sharing information, it is important make sure to provide facts without promoting a high level of stress, remind children that adults are working to address this concern, and give children actions they can take to protect themselves.

Information is rapidly changing about this new virus—to have the most correct information stay informed by accessing https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html.

Keep Explanations Age Appropriate

  • Early elementary school children need brief, simple information that should balance COVID-19 facts with appropriate reassurances that their schools and homes are safe and that adults are there to help keep them healthy and to take care of them if they do get sick. Give simple examples of the steps people take every day to stop germs and stay healthy, such as washing hands. Use language such as “adults are working hard to keep you safe.”
  • Upper elementary and early middle school children will be more vocal in asking questions about whether they truly are safe and what will happen if COVID-19 comes to their school or community. They may need assistance separating reality from rumor and fantasy. Discuss efforts of school and community leaders to prevent germs from spreading.
  • Upper middle school and high school students are able to discuss the issue in a more in-depth (adult-like) fashion and can be referred directly to appropriate sources of COVID-19 facts. Provide honest, accurate, and factual information about the current status of COVID-19. Having such knowledge can help them feel a sense of control.

Suggested Points to Emphasize When Talking to Children

  • Adults at home and school are taking care of your health and safety. If you have concerns, please talk to an adult you trust.
  • Not everyone will get the coronavirus (COVID-19) disease. School and health officials are being especially careful to make sure as few people as possible get sick.
  • It is important that all students treat each other with respect and not jump to conclusions about who may or may not have COVID-19.

“Talking to Children About COVID-19 (Coronavirus): A Parent Resource.” National Association of School Psychologists (NASP), www.nasponline.org/resources-and-publications/resources-and-podcasts/school-climate-safety-and-crisis/health-crisis-resources/talking-to-children-about-covid-19-(coronavirus)-a-parent-resource.

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