Now that things are starting to open up, how can we help our kids if they are still afraid of COVID-19? I made an appointment for my 12-year-old daughter to go to the dentist and she is so scared to go.
As relieved as we may be that the stay-at-home orders are being lifted across the country, it can be very difficult for kids to understand why we can go out now when we couldn’t before.
As with most fear, saying, “You have nothing to be afraid of!” or “Don’t worry!” never works. You need to normalize the fear and empathize with her instead. Try something like, “I can completely understand why you’d be worried about that. Everyone feels worried about something as serious as COVID-19. This is a difficult thing we’re all dealing with.” Knowing that we are not alone in our fears, and there’s nothing wrong with feeling nervous, helps to make fear more manageable.
I’d ask her what she knows about the coronavirus and correct any misinformation. It could be she thinks it is more deadly than it actually is.
You can also help her understand why we needed to stay home. It wasn’t so that no one would get the virus at all, but so we didn’t all get it at once and overwhelm our health care system. It isn’t feasible for us to all stay home indefinitely, so our health experts made a plan that would allow us to slowly start going out again even though the virus is still around.
While of course we want to educate and reassure your daughter, it’s crucial to be able to help her go on with life with some uncertainty. There is a risk to going out of the house with coronavirus still circulating, and no cure and no vaccine. We need to balance the risk with our need to live our lives (including going to the dentist!).
You can tell her that, along with taking all possible precautions against getting sick, “Whatever happens, sweetheart, we can handle it.” It might not be easy or what we want, but it’s necessary and resilience-building to remind ourselves that we can do hard things.
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Sarah Rosensweet is a peaceful parenting coach and parenting advice columnist for Canada's Globe and Mail newspaper. She lives in Toronto with her husband and three big kids (ages 13, 16, and 19). Sarah teaches parents a non-punitive, connection-based approach that uses firm limits with lots of empathy. Enjoy your kids again! Find her at sarahrosensweet.com