At the initial phases of what is now known as the “new normal”, I didn’t need to ease my kids’ anxiety. To me, all they needed to know were the following: (1) wash your hands thoroughly for 20 seconds; (2) stay away from sneezing and coughing classmates; and (3) stop touching your faces. No big deal. However, when classes were cancelled abruptly – just before the summer break – that’s when their confusion started. On one hand, they were happy they didn’t have to go to school anymore (they had tests scheduled all week long), but on the other, they were sad to not have properly said goodbye to their friends and teachers. Shortly after, the government came out with a directive stating everyone must stay at home.
As a mom, I was happy I no longer had to worry about my kids’ exposure to public places - but seeing their confusion was also hard. I knew I quickly had to explain the situation to allay their fears, even though I was afraid myself.
Here are 5 things I have done – that you can follow – to help your families cope with the current times.
Our kids rely on us to provide a safe and secure environment for them. Thankfully, our home can be their sanctuary at a time like this. However, even if we keep our houses extra sanitized, if we show our kids we’re scared, they will feel scared too. So let’s try to relax when the kids are around.
To be honest, my calm mask has slipped off a couple of times. First, when my kids started coughing at each other as a joke. I didn’t see anything funny about it and warned them never to do that – especially in public. Second, when my kids – all rowdy boys – were chasing each other inside the house. I yelled, “We can’t go to an emergency room if you break your bones, so settle down!” Each time, I had to apologize: “Mama’s outburst was because I’m just a little concerned about everyone’s health. We’re safe here at home but I need you to help me keep it that way. Can we stay safe together?” They happily agreed.
Let’s contain our emotions, try not to discuss alarming news at the dinner table, and keep ourselves from oversharing our worries with the kids. It’s easier to soothe their anxiety if we show them we’re in control.
Get the facts straight
It’s normal to feel anxious in the face of the unknown. There’s still a lot we don’t know about the outbreak and its impact to one’s health at full capacity. We also don’t know how the rest of the year will be like.
To stay calm, we must arm ourselves with the right information. For now, what we do know is we need to stop the spread of germs. That’s actually enough information to not only keep us safer, but also give ourselves and our kids a sense of control.
As a family, we checked out credible websites and researched on facts, what the symptoms are, and what we can do to stay healthy and safe. When my kids knew the facts, they didn’t need to be nagged about proper hand-washing, nor did they complain about having to stay at home. They also stopped whining about taking their vitamins and eating vegetables! They now knew they had to stay healthy.
Follow a daily routine
When things are predictable, our kids know what to expect and this makes them feel safe. But with these changes all around the world, life as we know it has ceased and we now have to invent entirely new structures to establish a sense of control for our families.
Create a daily schedule that can accommodate your kids’ needs and that of your own, especially if you still have to work. In our home, our routine starts off with the kids doing their chores, arts and crafts, and reading – all the quiet activities – in the morning; since their father is engaged in video conference calls. After lunch, the kids can get loud. They watch TV, play video games, wrestle, perform stage plays with their toys in starring roles, do sword fights, try out new recipes, and exercise. After dinner, we watch a movie. That’s our day!
A schedule doesn’t have to be too strict. Just give the kids a sense of normalcy with a predictable day to help ease any anxiety.
Take care of yourselves
Every child needs healthy food, enough sleep, and physical play for proper growth and development. Today, these are all the more important for them to be healthy and strong.
As I mentioned, my kids are finally not resisting vitamins and vegetables because they were armed with information. In fact, they’re quite enthusiastic about health and wellness now. We’re even exercising as a family these days!
One thing we’re still working on though, is cabin fever and the anxiety of an uncertain future. I try to keep the kids entertained and distracted most days but inevitably, they get irritated and bored with each other and start thinking about what their summer could’ve been. In times like these, I have to be honest with them and explain that it’s perfectly normal to be upset with the changes, to be annoyed at each other, and to get bored. Then we talk about how we can be more patient with one another and figure out what new activity we can engage in. Regularly talking about our emotions is one big way to care for each other.
My kids understand the need for social distancing but even if they know it’s temporary, they still feel a loss. They miss their friends and they miss visiting their grandparents and other family members.
To keep kids from feeling isolated, help them understand that they can still stay connected even without physically being there. There are applications like Skype, Viber, and Facetime which enables them to see their friends or show off their new painting to their grandparents. You also have the option of enrolling them in online classes.
My kids’ school asks the students to make artwork for frontliners like medical personnel, garbage collectors, and delivery men. This helps the kids think of people outside of their network and the essential work being done so the rest of us can stay at home.
Our kids need us to stay positive. While we all don’t know what the immediate future is like, we have to make sure our kids know they’re safe. We’ll probably need to reassure them many times over the coming days. But thankfully, we can ease our kids’ anxiety with things as simple as a hug, and a calm and honest talk.
About The Writer
Frances Amper Sales is a writer for beauty, lifestyle, and parenting publications. She was the happy editor-in-chief of entertainment title, OK! Philippines, until she made the happier decision to work from home and raise her three sons with her husband, a novelist and editor. While Frances has always enjoyed her career, it was only when she began writing her parenting adventures on her blog, www.topazhorizon.com, that she felt that her writing mattered as thousands of fellow moms and working women shared how her candid and honest stories inspired them to embrace motherhood without pressure and guilt, just love.
The views and opinions expressed by the writer are his/her own, and does not state or reflect those of Wyeth Nutrition and its principals.