UNT System HR brings you UNT World experts with this periodic and always timely installation called "Ask An Expert." So, let's ask...
EXPERT: Nedra Washington, Ph.D., is a Senior Lecturer in the UNT Dallas School of Human Services and the former Program Coordinator of Child Development and Family Studies. One of her many strengths is her knowledge of early childhood education and child development teachings and research. She brings her expertise to us today as it relates to discussing with our children the ongoing impacts of the coronavirus pandemic. Whether it's explaining why it's important to frequently wash our hands or why some kids wear a mask at school and others don't, parents can influence their kids more than anyone, she says. Dr. Washington discusses steps parents can take to better understand what their children are thinking through all this and how best to communicate with them and comfort them. Please read on for Dr. Washington's tips to help you have constructive dialogue with your kids at this extremely important time.
The multiple strands of the Coronavirus have impacted all families in various ways, especially our children. Whether it is washing your hands, wearing a mask or social distancing, parents are the greatest influencer. From our infants to our adolescents, the care and guidance from parents is the most powerful. From a perspective as a professional in the disciple of child development, there are several steps parents can take to minimize anxiety, stress and confusion to help their children understand and navigate best practices during this unprecedented time or the viruses.
Find out what your child(ren) already knows
Ask your children what they know and allow them to express what and how they feel about all of the changes going on around them. Sometimes as adults, we are so busy trying to provide what they need to sustain their physical health, we forget about their cognitive state which drives their emotional and social needs. Listen and become more in tune with the thinking process of your child(ren).
Check in with your child(ren) every day and let them take the lead
There will be times when your child(ren) may want to discuss their day and other times they may not want to discuss their day, and that is OK. What matters is keeping that connection and knowing that you respect how they feel and they can trust you with their feelings. If this is occurring in your home, you are establishing a much-needed new normal.
Your responses to your child(ren) should always be developmentally and age-appropriate
Many families have multiple children and the ages may vary. As parents, our conversation will be different with a 4 year old than it is with a 15 year old. Developmentally and age-appropriate conversations are strongly recommended. The language utilized by parents is vital to how children/adolescents are comprehending things that are happening and what the family is doing to keep them safe and healthy. Many of our children have high-frequency receptors and know when parents are not being honest. Remain calm in all your conversations with your children and be honest.
Children/adolescents worry about their family and friends
Allow the children to keep in contact with their family and friends. Video chatting, a phone call, even writing a letter will do wonders for your children. Constant contact provides reassurance that loved ones are OK and releases some of that stress and anxiety discussed earlier.
Above are just a few suggestions to help remain connected to our children as we navigate through the pandemic. Let us not forget to deal with our own stress and anxiety because as parents, we set the tone. Their safety, health and well-being are guided by our actions. Make the best decision for your family, and if you could use some guidance, please visit this link for resources that may be helpful to you: https://developingchild.harvard.edu/resources/covid-19-resources.