Parenting in a Pandemic: How To Talk About Coronavirus As A Family
Parenting in a Pandemic
As communities continue to adjust to the effects of Coronavirus, it’s easy to get caught up in the fear and confusion. Your children might be looking to you for answers and reassurance, yet you may need answers and reassurance yourself! So what do you do?
Over the last few weeks as an online marriage and family therapist, I’ve been asked many questions from my clients with the hope that my answers can bring about peace of mind for families wrestling with uncertainty, and I believe there are some conversations and strategies that could help you find what you’re looking for…
Focus On What’s Underneath All Those Questions
Most of the time when we seek to understand it’s because we need reassurance, we need to feel more in control. I believe that fear and anxiety prompts these needs in us. As humans, feeling out of control is vulnerable and scary, so we react out of survival and we seek to understand. [More on letting go of control: How to Release Control and Let Things Go.]
In times like these when everything seems uncertain and scary, fear can become an unwelcome companion. Both adults and children listen to fear and let it sweep them up into waves of anxiety. Unfortunately, the more questions we ask, the more we realize how much we don’t know, and the more anxious we feel, especially in relation to something as unfamiliar as COVID-19.
I’ve realized in my work with families that speaking to childrens’ fear can be more helpful than simply answering their questions. As the adult, we can acknowledge that their fear makes sense, and maybe even share with them that we also feel afraid when we don’t have all the answers. Fear is a normal human experience and it’s okay to talk about it.
Remember That You Are A Team
One of the most empowering things you can do as a family is talk about teamwork! Even though you may be confined to your home and your social circle has shrunk, you still have each other! Don’t let fear or anxiety distract you from that.
Use this time to reinforce your teamwork– play family games, watch movies together, have meaningful conversations at the dinner table. Your children could find so much peace in knowing that the unity of your family is one thing they can be certain of.
It’s Okay If We Don’t Have All The Answers Right Now
Unfortunately, we don’t have all the facts about COVID-19 and with the ever changing statistics and research we are learning new facts daily. It’s impossible to keep up! So rather than stressing out about “knowing everything” focus on a few key things we do know:
(1) This is not forever
(2) There are specific things we can do to make this better
(3) The rest is out of our hands
Teach your children that it’s okay to not know everything. Better yet, teach them that they can find hope and peace despite not knowing!
The truth is, it is impossible to always be in control, so if we teach our children that the only way to feel at peace is when we’re in control, then they will feel distressed most of the time.
In my work with clients, I’ve found the better antidote to anxiety is realizing that even in the face of not knowing, there is still hope.
Change Your Perspective
It is okay to acknowledge the fear that your family is experiencing. This is normal and healthy. But rather than dwelling in that fear, try to practice being present as a family.
Rather than looking months ahead and wishing away these moments, do something meaningful with the time you have today. Even though social distancing can feel distressing, I’m personally trying to look at it as an opportunity. An opportunity to spend more time with my family, an opportunity to re-evaluate what I’m grateful for, and an opportunity to choose hope over fear.
My hope for you and your family is that you’ll feel empowered to have meaningful conversations during this time of uncertainty. Because even when we are afraid and don’t have all the answers, coming together as a family can make a difference.
Georgi Chizk, M.S., LAMFT
Georgi Chizk, M.S., LAMFT is a warm, compassionate marriage counselor, individual therapist and family therapist who creates a safe and supportive space for you to find meaning in your struggles, realize your self-worth, and cultivate healthy connections with the most important people in your life.
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