(Please note: This blog post is written to help families who are not currently medically ill. If you have any symptoms of the virus, please seek medical attention. This blog post is written to help families lessen the traumatic impact on their children.)
The world is on high alert with the Coronavirus and many people are infected, at risk of infection and sadly, some have died. Unfortunately, it seems that the Coronavirus may be coming to a place near you. The television and radio stations are full of the news.
When you are not in any immediate danger yourself but are confronted with a tragedy like this, there are a few things, as a family, it is good to be aware of.
Things to keep in mind:
- You and your children can experience trauma by being exposed to reports and images of the news. The trauma from the coronavirus doesn’t just affect those who have become infected with it. The trauma from the coronavirus also impacts those who have heard and changed their lifestyle because of it. Seeing images on television and hearing reports about it can also cause trauma.
- You and/or your children can start to feel helpless.
Some signs to be aware of that trauma is affecting you and/or your children include:
- A fascination with wanting to see and hear the latest news about the coronavirus.
- Trouble sleeping. Night terrors in toddlers/infants can be a sign that they have been exposed to trauma, whether real or perceived.
- Abnormal or irrational behaviour. Crying or getting angry for ‘no apparent reason’ or a disinterest in life and normal activities are warning signs. Blaming someone, or the government, for what they are or aren’t doing and the decisions they are or aren’t making. Seeing you, as their parent or caregiver, stockpile irrationally items like toilet paper and pasta or wearing face masks only heightens the paranoia.
- Children becoming more ‘clingy’ than usual or hesitant to leave their parent.
If you are not currently infected with Coronavirus, look at some strategies to put into place to lessen the impact on your family.
Strategies to put into place to lessen the traumatic impact include:
- Limit visual and sound exposure to the reports. Turn off your television. Do not let your children hear and see reports of the deaths and impact.
- Talk appropriately about it as a family. Answer, to the best of your ability, your children’s questions. Look at your family’s activities and ask everyone how they are feeling about what you should be attending and not attending as a family.
- If your children are at school, keep lines of communication open with the school about how they are handling the situation and how and what they have communicated to the children. They will often have great suggestions on the best age-appropriate strategies.
- Have your children bring home all their books and computer and computer chargers every evening in case the school needs to close immediately.
- Model appropriate behaviour. Limit social media access about the coronavirus. Don’t blame the government. Talk appropriately about the situation. Don’t irrationally stockpile or wear face masks as this will only heighten the paranoia and fear.
- Brainstorm ways you can help as a family. (See below for some suggestions)
- Intentionally plan to have fun. Find ways to laugh. Play games. Spend time with your children. Give extra hugs. Read books together.
- Keep routines eg bedtime as normal as possible. This provides structure and reassurance for children.
- Discuss and prepare your own emergency supplies for a disaster. Kids can feel that they have more control over a situation if they have helped prepare for an emergency that may occur. Brainstorm appropriate amounts of food and supply items you need as a family for a fortnight.
- Practice and teach your children appropriate strategies to lessen the transmission of the virus – coughing into your elbow, not touching your face, washing hands thoroughly etc.
- Make a batch of playdough (google ‘no-cook easy playdough’ recipe) and spend some time as a family sitting together at the table. Encourage each person to use the playdough to show how they are feeling about the coronavirus.
- Be grateful. Make lists of all the things you are thankful and grateful for. Say them out aloud. Pray and thank God for those things.
- Ask your children what they would like you to pray for them and over them. Then do that regularly.
- Help other people. Communicate kindness and love to others.
- If appropriate, get out into nature. If you are not sick or showing any symptoms, take the family to a deserted beach or for a hike in the hills or a play at an empty park. Enjoy the outdoors, keeping an appropriate distance from others.
What we can do to help:
The immediate question for my family and me is “What can we do to help?”. This is the time that you can address any feelings of helplessness by doing something practical to help. Doing something physically to help others who have been affected by the Coronavirus, or those at high risk of being infected by the virus, makes it far more personal for your children and lessens the traumatic impact on them as they have been able to contribute. Combating feeling helpless for kids is essential in the coping strategy of lessening the impact of the Coronavirus.
Look out for your neighbours, the elderly, sick or immune-compromised, or families with babies. Offer to help single parents or those alone. Offer to access essential supermarket items for them. Do random acts of kindness to others. Spread kindness and love.
Help keep your family focused on the positive aspects of the changes. Regularly look at the positives and be thankful.
Recognise that your children will take their cue from you in regard to their reaction to the Coronavirus. Be aware of what you are modelling to them.
Some suggestions for helping as a family:
- Pray as a family. Draw pictures of your prayers.
- Write thank you letters to medical staff, government decision-makers.
- Write encouragement letters to families and schools in the Wuhan Province in China.
- Obtain essential items for people unable to get to the shops.
- Limit large group activities.
- Look at how you can change the atmosphere when you encounter fear and bring love instead.
- Brainstorm acts of kindness that you can do as a family during this time. Your children will have many ideas.
- Be infectious in your positivity and thankfulness during this time.
- Select one action you could do as a family to reach out and help others so that you don’t become overwhelmed. Try and do that action as soon as you can and not leave it for several weeks.
On my other blog, I posted a prayer about the coronavirus. You may find that helpful to pray through and declare on your own or with your children. It also has Bible verses that are applicable to the situation. You can find it here.
I would love to hear what you and your family are doing to assist those who have been affected by Coronavirus or the fear surrounding it. Please feel free to comment.