Ryan Trares: Kids need reassurance, honesty during crisis

<p>As the neverending stream of Disney Channel, “Frozen 2” and something called “Bluey” played on loop in the background, I wondered when the questions would come.</p><p>So far, my 4-year-old son is content in the midst of this crisis. He’s happy that he gets to stay home with his mom and dad, play with his own toys and chase the cats around the house.</p><p>We’ve made boats out of couch cushions, created an elaborate leprechaun trap and invented games involving bouncy balls and balloons.</p><p>But I know he’s going to ask.</p><p>“Daddy, can we go eat at McDonalds?”</p><p>“Daddy, is it a good day to go to the playground?”</p><p>“Daddy, why can’t I go to school today?”</p><p>My wife and I have tried to be careful around him when talking about this new reality of social distancing and the COVID-19 coronavirus. We’ve spoken calmly about the nonstop breaking news and each new development, avoiding panic. We’ve explained to him that he won’t go to school for a few weeks, and that his teachers have prepared fun games and lessons for him to do at home.</p><p>He’s been singing the Alphabet Song so often every time he washes his hands that even if he hadn’t mastered his letters before, he’s a pro now.</p><p>Still, I can see his brow furrow ever so slightly, with more frequency than I noticed before.</p><p>How parents talk to their kids about coronavirus depends on their age and maturity level, said Kimble Richardson, a licensed therapist with Community Health Network who has more than 30 years of experience in working with people of all ages during crises.</p><p>Younger children — such as my son — don’t need an abundance of information. Rather, they need reassurance, Richardson said.</p><p>“You can say something like, ‘There’s a lot going on right now, but we love you and we’re going to keep you as safe as possible. We’re going to take care of ourselves. We’re going to stick together as a family,” he said. “And allow them to ask questions, answering those questions age-appropriately.”</p><p>Old kids and teenagers are going to be more attuned to the news going on, and likely have picked up much of what’s going on through social media. They can handle more information and frank discussion, woven into the same assurances that you’d provide a young child.</p><p>But regardless of age, certain aspects of your approach are universal, he said.</p><p>“You want to be as informed as you can, yourself. If you approach your child calmly and with an open demeanor, kids are pretty good about that approach,” Richardson said.</p><p>Richardon’s advice echoes the recommendations that the National Association of School Psychologists and National Association of School Nurses have put forth. They advise parents to remain calm and reassuring, to make yourself available to listen and answer questions, and to be hones and accurate.</p><p>“It is very important to remember that children look to adults for guidance on how to react to stressful events. If parents seem overly worried, children’s anxiety may rise,” a release from the organization says.</p><p>“Teaching children positive preventive measures, talking with them about their fears, and giving them a sense of some control over their risk of infection can help reduce anxiety.”</p><p>These are uncertain times for everyone. Each day seems to bring a new, massive adjustment as we as a society work to keep our most vulnerable members safe and healthy.</p><p>It can be overwhelming for adults, let alone for their kids. By showing love, being truthful and staying calm, we’ll all make it through this physically and emotionally, as a community.</p>