Be honest. Children are honest. Sometimes they are brutally honest, which is why sometimes adults interpret children’s actions as mean. It’s usually more about honesty than meanness. Children can also spot inauthenticity very well. They can tell when an adult is being honest or not. As a rule of thumb, be as honest as you can be with your children because it will teach them the value of honesty, and they will appreciate it on conscious and subconscious levels.
It’s ok to be vulnerable. It’s ok for you to show your children that you don’t always have the answer, especially when you’re talking about COVID-19. You don’t have the answers. No one does. You’re doing the best that you can, and luckily, that is all that your children need from you. Your children always only need the best that you can do. Sooner or later, they will understand that no one got a manual delivered after delivery.
Keep emotions in check. Being vulnerable means that your children will probably see tears from you at some point or another. It’s ok. It’s good for them to know that they can and should cry when they feel like it. At the same time, I recommend that you think about what you will say before you have an “official talk” with your children. When children see adults cry, it tends to scare them. It’s a fine line; walk it gently and carefully. And if you fall off the tightrope sometimes, it’s ok.
Children are highly intuitive. They will be able to tell that people are scared, that things are different, or that we just don’t know. It’s ok for you to tell them that because they will see it anyway. It’s better for you to prepare them for that, actually. Ask yourself what you want them to know about living with COVID-19. That is the only thing that you can control. What do you want them to remember, know, or understand?
Bring it down a notch. Explain things clearly. Break it down. Think like a child. Use visuals if you need. Often times, I’ve seen parents use adult vocabulary and adult concepts to explain something to young children that is incomprehensible to them. Check with your children to see if they understood what you just said. Ask questions. Ask for a summary. Ask if they know what a certain word means. They will be honest about it. Keep breaking down a concept further if it hasn’t been understood. Think in “little bites.”
Remind them that they are not alone. They have you. You will be there for them. Encourage them to speak to you about their feelings or thoughts. Keep an open door. Remind them that you are there for them and that you will be looking out for them. Remind them that they are safe.