This blog has been written by Dr Sia Rees, one of our Counselling Psychologists in the LAD Centre at Highbury. It builds on the theme of her LAD Parent talk from Term 1, ‘Is Sharing Caring’, which is also featured on our blog, but focusing specifically on communication with your children on the topic of Covid-19. Thank you, Sia, for sharing your valuable advice with us.
I’ve had a great opportunity to communicate with a few of our Highbury boys in Zoom sessions this week and have attained a general idea as to how they are feeling about COVID-19.
The boys, having been well taught by their parents and teachers, are in the loop. They know the facts. For most, the primary emotion is not fear but level-headed neutrality. Some have asked, “What’s all the fuss is about?” The boys are aware that while they may be at risk of contracting the virus, they know that the youth have strong immune systems. They feel that they are strong enough to fight it off.
When it comes to what you should and shouldn’t be sharing with your children about COVID-19, here are some pointers:
- Of course, you do not want to create a culture of fear. I believe that parents have done well to avoid this.
- In keeping away from a culture of fear, you could limit intensive news watching or online news reading. There is much speculation and many conspiracy theories, a lot of which your boys do not need to know. As parents, follow the news and keep your children informed on a ‘need-to-know’ basis. They need a summary of what is happening and need to know what is expected of them.
- Avoid giving daily statistics of deaths and infections. Obsessing over numbers won’t serve them (or you). Find the balance of staying informed, but try not to become overly immersed in the media.
- In doing your part for the cause, you can help by creating a culture of responsibility. While it’s great that children feel fairly safe and know that there is little fatal risk to them, it’s very important that they take COVID-19 seriously. They must understand that one of the biggest risks of the youth is their capacity to be carriers (even asymptomatically) and that they could inadvertently spread it to those who are more vulnerable. I’ve found it useful to explain to the boys that while they may contract it and be perfectly equipped at fighting the virus, they could easily pass it on to Granny or Grandpa even after an innocent hug.
- Help your boys to understand that they have a great role to play in flattening the curve. They must be particular about social distancing and hand washing. They must avoid unnecessary exposure. If they have been in a public space, they must sanitise and be sure to avoid touching surfaces and their faces. They must wash their hands and change their clothes when they get back home.
- Children in the midst of a crisis are empowered by a sense of control. While they can do their part by being responsible, they can also focus their attention on what is in their control. I believe this is to set goals, to focus on their school work through “Highbury At Home”, to support their families by willingly becoming involved in household chores, and to help to make home confinement as pleasant as possible. (All those I’ve spoken to have found new skills. Some mentioned giving siblings/parents space when necessary, and of learning to take time out when needed. Some have helped in keeping siblings entertained with thinking of group games.)
- In the midst of a crisis, it’s natural to become introspective and self-protective (and yes, even selfish). Many families are under pressure and a great big cloud of uncertainty about jobs, holidays, employees, the future! Psychologically, this causes us to huddle with our family and take a protective stance. Your boys will pick this up from you and do the same.
- While taking care of yourself and your family is your priority and is vital, I also want to urge you to subscribe to a culture of community. Help your children to see this too. Not all of us as adults are at the frontlines of this battle, but every one of us has the capacity to do one small thing to try to help in some way. Encourage your boys to do the same – if you know of a family who is battling at this time, encourage your son to reach out to their child. There is great power in a single conversation. Our boys are so comfortable with technology! Let them Zoom each other, or play an online game together, or offer to help each other with school work. Make them intrinsically aware of how important it is to help each other during this time. Jon Tyson says: “ People will always remember how you treat them in a crisis. These are opportunities to show the love of God to others.”