10 Tips for Talking to Your Child About Re-opening in the Pandemic

Help your child get the reliable information s/he needs about “the next normal” without causing undue stress.

Social distancing due to the COVID-19 pandemic created confusion, frustration, and anxiety for many children. As areas begin to re-open, families will again need to adjust to big changes. Here are some helpful tips to make sure your child understands what’s changing and why.

  1. Ask your child what s/he already knows about the pandemic and your state’s plans to reopen, and have him or her tell you how s/he’s feeling. Doing so will allow you to assess what needs to be discussed and clear up any misconceptions or unnecessary worries s/he may have.
  2. Discuss the ways that reopening will impact your family. Many families have spent weeks or months developing new routines as old ones have slipped away. How might your routines shift again as family members return to work, camp, or daycare? Which household rules (around social distancing, for example) will your family keep and which ones may loosen? Provide accurate, age-appropriate information, and give your child clear, honest answers to questions without volunteering more information than s/he needs.
  3. Reassure your child that adults are still working hard to keep him or her safe. This includes parents, grandparents, teachers, care providers, community leaders, health practitioners, and public health officials.
  4. Let your child express feelings and worries. Some children may feel anxious about returning to camp, daycare, or other public settings. Others may worry about parents or loved ones who are returning to work. When children are feeling anxious, it’s important for them to know that they have safe space for expressing their concerns. Tell your child s/he can always come to you with questions or to seek support.
  5. Re-emphasize healthy habits. Although many areas are making efforts to re-open, the pandemic will likely be part of our reality for some time. Continue to emphasize personal hygiene practices and choices that either reduce germs or keep the immune system strong. Frequent handwashing, coughing or sneezing into the elbow or a tissue instead of the air or hands, wearing a mask in public, and practicing social distancing are all good ways to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus. Eating nourishing foods and getting plenty of sleep help children stay healthy.
  6. Set boundaries and explain why continued social distancing is important. If members of your family are returning to the public sphere, or you have decided to expand your social “bubble,” be sure to set clear guidelines around how to do so in the safest way. Consider writing a list of “family rules” and posting them where everyone can see them. Explain why these rules are important and how they keep people safer by preventing the spread of the virus.
  7. Explain that each household may move forward at a different pace. Your child may wonder why some friends or loved ones seem eager to socialize in person while others prefer to remain distanced. It may help to explain that each family faces unique circumstances – such as health concerns, job requirements, living arrangements, etc. – that help shape what they need most. Re-emphasize that your family guidelines are there to best meet your family’s needs.
  8. Stay positive, and use a calm and reassuring tone. Anxiety can be contagious, so chances are that if you seem worried about re-entering the world, your child will be, too. Consider the impact of not only what you say, but also how you say it.
  9. Maintain the pandemic routines and practices your child enjoys most. If your family has developed a routine around baking cookies on Tuesdays, having a family game night on Thursdays, or taking walks after dinner, do your best to maintain your or your child’s favorite new habits as we enter “the next normal.” In addition to ensuring that you still have valued time together, maintaining enjoyable routines will help your child feel grounded as circumstances continue to shift.
  10. Avoid using unkind language or placing blame. Remind your child that some of what s/he may hear about COVID-19 could be based on rumors. It’s important to avoid placing blame, creating stigma, or making assumptions about who may have it or the choices of others.

Torchlight does not provide medical advice. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice because of something you read on Torchlight. If you think you may have a medical emergency, call your doctor or dial 911.

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