These are fearful times. Deaths from the coronavirus now exceed 78,000 in the U.S. with more than 1.3 million American cases. We may know someone who has gotten sick or who has died from the infection. It may be a family member, a friend, a coworker, or the virus may have impacted one of our children's classmates, teachers, counselors or school personnel.
Our kids can become fearful and wonder: Will it happen to me or my friends or my family? They may worry about completing classes, whether or not they will be going to campus in the fall, when they will be able to get together with their friends, if things will ever get back to "normal" and, if they do, whether their social relationships will be the same. With parents who must continue to go to work, children may have a greater level of fear for their parents' safety.
Helping our children overcome fear
* Talk and listen. Give your child a safe place to ask questions, talk about concerns and share perspectives. Listen carefully, and be honest in your responses. Be respectful of your child's feelings. Be reassuring while still being real.
* Facts first. Children can fear what they don't understand. We need to offer clear and reliable information, patiently answer questions and provide a safe environment for our kids to talk. There are a number of good resources for information including:
- U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-nCoV/index.html),
- National Institutes of Health (https://www.niaid.nih.gov)
- National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (https://www.niaid.nih.gov)
Safety wrapped in truth
* Model security. It is natural for us to be worried, but it is important to provide a safe, secure climate for our kids. As much as possible we want them to feel protected. Remaining calm and focused while being truthful can help your kids feel safe.
You can't control the virus or totally protect your child from it. But you can be reassuring, understanding and patient. Your child may have worries that seem overblown to you but not to them. The loss of connection with friends, for instance, is a temporary condition to you. To your child, however, that loss may seem permanent. Suddenly, you're coping with impatience, fear, anger, grief and perhaps depression.
A new learning curve for all of us
COVID-19 has impacted the health of our nation, our social structure and the country's economic stability. This may go on for quite a while. It has uncovered a difficult balance between public safety and economic viability. These are scary times. It is important that we work to make them a bit less so for our children.
Tom Tozer and Bill Black write a syndicated column on fatherhood and are authors of 'Dads2Dads: Tools for Raising Teenagers." Like them on Facebook and follow them on Twitter at Dads2Dadsllc. Email them at tomandbill@Dads2Dadsllc.com.