Keeping Kids Calm During Crisis
Updated: Mar 24, 2020
Schools are closing their doors, restaurants, bars, and gyms are following suit. Grocery stores are full of customers looking for toilet paper and hand sanitizer. The media is flooding us with potential images of overwhelmed hospitals that can’t handle the influx of patients. And don’t even get me started on social media. It’s abuzz with conflicting information and possible worst-case scenarios. So is it surprising that our kids are concerned? Not at all when they see the adults, the role-models in their lives, stressing out. And I’d be lying if I said I haven’t had my own reservations and concerns. I mean, I sent my older son to Florida with my dad for the week. But, I also know that I have to keep things in perspective and I cannot allow my fear to run my life. Most importantly, I cannot allow my kids to feed off any anxiety I may have. So what have I done? I turn off the news, teach them good sanitary habits, teach them how to cope with potentially stressful situations, and most importantly, we try to have a little fun.
In our technological world, it’s almost impossible to completely ignore all forms of media, but I have been doing my best to thwart it from invading my children’s minds. So, I have chosen not to watch the news, and today when the radio began discussing the coronavirus, I changed the channel. Since my kids aren’t on social media, I don’t have to worry about them hearing anything there either. So, since the kids have been home from school, they haven’t talked about our current global situation much because they aren’t hearing about it at all angles. I am an advocate of children being up-to-date with current events, but in this situation, they know the main gist of what’s going on, so the details really are unnecessary. The news tends to focus on the negative. We rarely hear about the majority of cases, where people have the virus, have no complications, and recover. And that’s exactly what these young minds need to hear. They need reassurance in times of uncertainty. Yes, people can die, but they are much more likely to live. For my family, it is best to take the emphasis away from the stories portrayed by the media. I have explained to my kids that we have educated ourselves on prevention and detection, and that’s what we essentially need to know. The details and horror stories will not benefit us.
On a daily basis, I harp on my kids about washing their hands, but I am confident that the boys do not always wash after they use the bathroom and they beg me not to make them shower, so this is the perfect opportunity to explain the importance of good hygiene...beyond my normal, “you smell so disgusting” explanation. And I get it; their skin, like my own, gets really dry if I wash my hands a lot, especially during the cold winter months. But, it’s necessary to stay clean. So, we’ve talked a lot about washing after using the bathroom, before eating, and after you touch your face. And sticking your hands under the water for a millisecond doesn’t cut it either. Soap is necessary, you must rub your hands thoroughly, and it must be for at least twenty seconds. Here are some hand washing tips that I teach my students and my own squad of kids. First of all, make sure to wash the fronts, backs, in between fingers, and even under the fingernails with soap. Then I remind the students to sing the Alphabet Song while they wash to ensure that they do it for long enough. And because I’m a physical education teacher, we have a game to practice, so if you have enough people to play Toilet Tag, it’s a great way to perfect good hand washing techniques. The game is similar to Freeze Tag. One or two students are chosen to be “germs.” They are essentially “it.” During the game, if you are touched by a “germ,” you put one knee on the ground with the other up while putting one arm up in the air. Once you are tagged, another person who is not a germ can help you get back into the game, but pushing your arm down, like a toilet flush. Then both people must stand together, practice washing their hands, and sing the Alphabet Song. As long as they are washing their hands correctly, they cannot be tagged by the “germ.” Kids love this game, and it’s one you can play at home with your kiddos as well.
My kids have also been concerned about the current state of our country. Just like the rest of the world, the little ones are feeling the effects of the hysteria. And as a parent, it’s my responsibility to help ease their worries instead of feed into them. That being said, each of my children internalize and deal with stress differently. For my daughter, I have really focused on her writing her feelings down on paper. She is like me in this regard. She gets embarrassed to share her thoughts in person and tends to bottle them up. For her, I have suggested an online journal. She shares it with me daily and I am able to respond. Her twin brother is quite the opposite. He despises writing. He waits until everyone else is in bed and then we have one-on-one talks. These are so therapeutic for him and for me as well I must admit, and I love that he is able to confide in me, even when the topics are serious. My younger son doesn’t like to talk or write about what is bothering me. He tends to deflect and make jokes about things, even though I know that they are bothering him. But he is a very physical kid. And for him, proximity to me is key to feeling secure. And he’s young enough to believe that I am Wonder Woman and can somehow protect him from any unknown threat. And while I wish this was the case, I know that I don’t have that power. But I do have the power to provide him with love, reassurance, and comfort. So yeah, we have been pretty much connected the last few weeks. We’ve taken turns sleeping in each other’s beds, like a sleepover he says, so he feels a sense of security and I have obliged him. He enjoys drawing as well, so I’ve been brainstorming ways that would allow him to express his feelings this way. It’s an experiment. I’ll have to let you know how it goes. Regardless, kids need an outlet, so I am hoping to devote some afternoon time to journaling, talking, and/or drawing. It’s important for kids to have a person that they trust and can share their fears and concerns with without the fear of ridicule. Really listening to the concerns or our little ones and taking each of them seriously is paramount at developing relationships with them that will follow them into adulthood.
Most importantly, I want my kids to continue to have fun and enjoy their lives. We have developed our own “social isolation” routine that you can refer to in my previous article and we are doing our best to have some fun. I think next week we will implement some Spirit Days. I saw something about this on social media and it sounds like fun. Each day we will have a theme. I’m going to let the kids pick the daily theme, but they will include days like pajama day, hat day, favorite sports team day, mismatch day, crazy sock day, crazy hair day, etc. Then we can take pictures and share them with our friends. That may help make us feel a little less isolated. I am also planning a dance party for next week. I’m hoping to learn how to moonwalk before then. Hey, last winter I watched www.youtube.com videos until I learned how to do the worm, so moon walking is a real possibility. So, make sure to check out my new youtube channel to see if my kiddos and I are successful at learning this new dance move.
Until then, shut the media out, use good sanitizing precautions, let your kids express themselves to you, and take advantage of this time by having some good old-fashioned fun!