As the recommendations around social distancing and reopening continue to evolve, we must respond and make plans according to our own comfort level and needs. This means, as parents, we need to have conversations with our children—sometimes hard ones—about similarities, differences, and respect.
While there have been lots of similarities in everyone’s experience of COVID-19, every family has also had their own unique situations. We’ve all faced different challenges. Listening to everyone’s stories about what they have been through—and understanding what they’re now facing as their plans continue to unfold—is a good opportunity to help all children build empathy, see others’ perspectives, and build their own resilience.
The rules of social distancing will vary from family to family and place to place. But even after communities start reopening and many people move more freely, families who have a member at higher risk or a parent who is an essential worker may continue to face more challenges in their safety practices. It can be hard for children to understand constantly changing rules, and the different decisions that each family must make as they go along. It’s hard to make plans when things are always shifting, and it’s frustrating to not have all the answers.
But we’re all still in this together. You can help children by modeling good listening, thoughtfulness, compassion, and empathy. Encourage children to ask you questions about how others are doing, what’s been happening in their lives, and why they may be making certain choices or plans. Be a role model and guide; let them hear you ask questions of friends, neighbors, and family members not in your household. You might ask others:
- How have you been doing?
- What is new in your lives right now?
- What has been the hardest part of this for you?
- What feels the most challenging right now?
- What has helped you through this time so far?
- What have you learned to do during this time?
- What problems have you already solved?
- What are you most looking forward to doing again, once things become easier?
- What is your wish for the future?
- Is there anything I/we can do to help?
Your example and actions will shape your child’s understanding of the current situation and guide them to be empathetic towards others. It will also help them feel more in control because they have something that is within their power – how they interact with others.
The values and skills they will learn from you about how to be empathetic will have a lasting impact on their lives that extends beyond this health crisis and be a point of positivity during these trying times.
About the instructor
Deanna Marie Mason PhD
More than 20 years of clinical experience helping families:
Bachelor's Degree in Registered Nursing, Master’s Degree in Pediatric Nurse Practitioner and PhD in Nursing. University professor, patient education specialist, pediatric researcher, published author and reviewer to first-line international scientific journals, continuous philanthropic activity related to health promotion and education, wife and mother of two children.