How to handle the current viral outbreak with young children

Mark Fielding

If you handle it right, what your children will remember about the virus is not the fear living in our environment, but it could be what you do with them at home. That is, the time you spend with them – keeping things as normal as possible, playing games, reading, going for walks, doing housework and cooking together and so on.  This is a gift given to you and your children, time to be a family together. They (and hopefully you too) will remember this as a golden moment.

1) Turn off the news around your children. Consider limiting your own media intake (while still staying informed). Your children are aware of your own fears and anxieties; do what you can to reduce those.

2) Be aware of how much information you give your children. Younger children are not developmentally able to handle most of the details of the news. When children are old enough to critically think and problem solve, they are old enough to hear about the news (around 9-10).

3) Consider what you will tell your older children who have already heard about the virus. Older children like to think about what they might do to help. This eases their anxieties. Come up with a list of how you can help your neighbours and community. Remind them you will keep them safe.

4) Spend more time outside and in the sun. Being outdoors, moving your body, getting fresh air, and being in the sun will boost your moods and your immune system.

5) Make and eat healthy meals together as a family. Keep meal times media and screen free.

6) Play games together. Do puzzles. Draw. Learn a new skill – skipping, knitting, sewing…

7) Make art or create things. Pick a home project you can complete together. Plant a garden or some seeds, if you’re able.

8) Sing songs. Singing affects the vagal nerve and eases anxiety and trauma.

9) Give your day’s rhythm and consistency If your day does not already have a rhythm, consider what it could be now. Try to make your days at home as predictable and consistent as possible. Rhythm eases anxiety and overwhelm for all of us but especially our children.

Most of our communities will undergo social distancing or quarantine, so when outdoors respect this, give people space but speak to them, smile, greet, bake biscuits or bread for elderly neighbours, leave a bunch of flowers on the doorstep. Do little acts of kindness for each other.

10) Spend time each day holding positive thoughts and space for our world and communities. Consider starting a gratitude practice. Let’s shift our focus from fear to hope.