Dr. Kris Boksman, C.Psych
Talking to Kids About Social Distancing
Updated: Mar 21, 2020
We have a pretty interesting situation on our hands these days. And parenting situations and mental health challenges and anxieties nobody ever prepared us for! Social distancing like this makes great sense, and I don't know about you, but I am feeling a wealth of pride about how our community has pulled together to pull apart, and protect each other and our invaluable medical workers, health care aides, and essential service workers that keep our communities humming.
So, with all that in mind, we are all at home, not always quite knowing what to do. How do we talk to our little ones to address their concerns and answer their questions about what is going on? Little people have lots of good questions. Why can't they see their friends? Why do they have to stay inside if they are perfectly healthy? Why haven't they seen nana and papa in so long? When will they be able to go back to swimming and skating lessons?
Recently I spoke with Alan Hale at the Kingston Whig Standard about exactly this dilemma. Below is some of what I shared with him.
What can parents do?
Simple communication, calm messages that emphasize how we are helping and how we can work together to keep each other safe, as well as repeating the facts until they are absorbed, is the basic strategy.
Basic Message #1:
"Our family is doing this to help our community safe."
This is the true intention of our current social distancing work. Make sure your kids know we are all working together to help curb the rate of getting sick, simply by staying apart.
Basic Message #2:
"Do not be worried about getting sick."
Our bodies know what to do if we get sick and we will fight the viruses just like any other cold or flu we have had. We will be ok. We are doing this not to prevent ourselves from getting sick, but to protect more vulnerable people and our important medical and essential services personnel from getting sick. We are helping by keeping a distance.
Basic Message #3:
"Here are the rules we will follow."
We all benefit from structure during uncertain times. Provide kids with rules about how your family will do more hand-washing, how they will not leave the house to run errands with parents, and how to keep at a distance from others in the neighbourhood when riding bikes or going for a walk. Use repetition and clear, gentle reminders to help them learn the new ways you will be operating.
Basic Message #4:
"Here are the things you can do to help."
Teach your kids how to use a disinfecting solution to help wipe down doorknobs and handles. Teach them how to sing the Happy Birthday song while hand-washing, and how often to wash hands. Check in on others to find out if they need some company through a video call. Being able to take action to help with safety and emotional care of others helps kids feel even better about staying at home.
Do you have questions about communicating with your kids during our pandemic? Let us know by emailing Dr. Boksman (firstname.lastname@example.org) and your question may be featured in a future article.