This is an unprecented situation, so helping your family face it calmly requires unprecedented methods.
1Talk with your kids, not around them
The most frightening part of any pandemic isn’t necessarily the illness itself, but the uncertainty surrounding it. This is true for kids as well as adults. We might think we’re protecting them by talking in hushed tones or telling them there’s nothing to worry about, but we’re actually creating more fear and anxiety by not engaging openly and honestly. Don’t be afraid to tell your kids about the virus. Sure, there’s no need to go into great detail about the more frightening details, but give them the facts. Explain how it’s spread, and tell them what they can do to protect themselves. If their schools are closed, explain why and remind them that these measures are being taken to protect everyone and slow the spread. Give them space to express their fears, and don’t brush those fears aside. In fact, it’s probably wise to share your own concerns so your kids know they’re not alone in feeling afraid. Facing what’s coming together — whether it’s coronavirus or just life — is the best way to build a sense of security and peace in your family.
2Focus on purpose, not distraction
I’ll admit that the first thing I thought about was finding ways to occupy the kids during the next few weeks. Keeping them busy and distracted seemed like the obvious solution — but this is a novel situation. We’ve never experienced anything like this before. It’s nothing like a school holiday or snow day, and those approaches seem inadequate. So instead of finding ways to distract the kids, I started thinking of ways to give them purpose each day. One day, we’re going to clean out and organize the game room closet that’s become a pit of despair. Is it fun? No. Does it need to be done? Yes. Is it a job we can focus on and complete together, and then celebrate afterward? Double yes. They don’t all have to be chore days, though — another day we’ll having cooking science class in the kitchen, which of both fun and productive. Look at these two weeks as an opportunity to do all the things you’ve been putting off in a systematic fashion. Plan them out, make a calendar, consult with the kids, and then wake up each day and just do it.
3Stay spiritually grounded
There’s nothing like a time of fear to bring people back to God, and this pandemic is no exception. Illness and death are on everyone’s minds, so you can be sure they’ll be on your kids’ minds as well. Don’t avoid that — confront it. Read passages of scripture and stories from the lives of saints who lived in times of plague … but read them together, out loud, and then spend some time talking. If a particular verse speaks to one of your kids — or you! — break out an expo marker and let them write it on a bathroom mirror. Come up with some ways your family can take the lessons from lives of saints and apply them here, now, in this modern time of plague. And most importantly, begin and end each day with prayer. Remind your kids when they wake up and before they go to sleep that ultimately, God’s love is infinite and eternal. Invoke their guardian angels to remind them that they are not alone, and that God will keep them safe now and forever.
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