by Susan Fotovich McCabe
Special to The Leaven
The kids are out of school (in the traditional sense) for the remainder of the school year. We all know why.
But do children of all ages really understand the implications of the coronavirus, or COVID-19, pandemic? Are they scared, indifferent, confused?
Libby DuPont, MTS, a consultant for the office of marriage and family life for the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas, has created a simple resource — “Talking to kids about COVID-19” — to help parents talk with their children, encourage them to express their emotions and stay positive.
DuPont, who is also a mom, begins with bringing God into the conversation.
She starts with a passage from St. Paul’s Letter to the Romans: “We know that in all things, God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. Even in trial, God has good things in store” (8:28).
DuPont has a 15-year-old son and a 9-year-old daughter. Sadly, she and her husband Brad lost two more children in infancy. At that time, she learned a lot about resiliency, prayer and rebuilding. It’s the foundation for the archdiocese’s new, educational resource.
“I’m not a psychologist, I’m just a mom. But some of the things we learned all those years ago are helpful today when discussing awkward or hard things,” DuPont said.
Her tips include:
Be honest: Even young children know when something isn’t right. Use language appropriate for their age. Keep it simple and brief for young children. They just want the facts. Be open to a dialogue with older children.
Acknowledge feelings: Don’t be afraid to share your own feelings and encourage your children to share theirs. Maybe they are searching for the words to describe how they feel. You can help by offering some language that helps. For example, you might ask, “Are you feeling sad?”
Apologize. Forgive. Repeat: The close quarters we share for the next few weeks may cause tensions to flair. Don’t forget to apologize to one another and start again each day.
Be patient: Things will go smoothly, and then they won’t. This pattern will repeat itself in this “new normal.” Be patient with your children and yourself.
“It’s important to remember that even if you’re home schooling under normal times, we don’t experience this much togetherness,” DuPont said. “Patience is important.”
To cope, DuPont suggests families find ways to connect while still complying with social distancing. For example, technology and handwritten notes are great for checking in on elderly neighbors, grandparents and others.
Have fun: Even when there’s work to do, remember to take breaks throughout the day.
And pray: There’s always time for prayer, whether you pray as a family or join online platforms.
Finally, DuPont encourages parents and children not to waste this unplanned time together. Establish a goal for what you want to accomplish during this period of unrest.
“The crisis is here. And the Lord has beautiful things in store,” DuPont said. “Right now, we’re not busy. So let’s take the opportunity to decide what we want to achieve.”
For a copy of “Talking to kids about COVID-19,” send an email to: Famlife@archkc.org.