COVID conversations with my eight-year-old son
I may only have to mention the word COVID to you once, and your mind might go off somewhere else thinking of other things, and that’s OK. Pandemic fatigue is happening, and many people are falling off the COVID-19 announcements and updates bandwagon.
However, the latest increase in our region’s numbers has put seriousness back in the forefront. And after speaking to my children about the latest news, my eight-year-old son gave me a different kind of reality check.
Rewind a little bit to when the pandemic first started; I felt like I did a decent job informing my children by letting them know how we could protect ourselves and others. What I failed to notice was, after a while, I would answer their COVID questions by saying: “Just because of COVID,” in regards to not being able to do something.
I stopped giving full explanations to everything they asked.
Maybe because I felt like I already had explained the overall spectrum to them? Perhaps, I was tired of the redundancy or just being ignorant of our worldwide reality?
So, when my son said: “I thought if we get COVID, we all die?”
My mouth hit the floor.
Why does my son think that he’s going to die if he gets COVID? Have I put this fear into him, that he and the entire world is going to die from this? How did I miscommunicate?
His words jolted me and had me second-guess myself on how I’m relaying the message. I took his words seriously to explain it to him (the best way I could as his mother – still knowing that I have my own questions of uncertainly).
I told him that if we all got COVID, we’d be OK and reminded him that he’s been sick before with the flu and it may feel like that but he’d get better.
I may be wrong with the “we will all be OK” approach to him because I don’t want to disregard any of the science or medical professionals. But I tried to minimize his fears for the sake of his heart and mind. And honestly, I want to believe that the world will be OK, too.
Searching for answers
As parents, we are often trying to find answers to questions that we don’t know. And the pandemic has now made it all the more difficult when looking ahead.
I explored online for more information found this great blog on Mommyshorts.com titled, “How to respond to your kid’s questions when you don’t always know the answers.”
The following includes tips from the article, and because it’s written pre-COVID, it addresses an overall approach to various situations.
Tips for what to do when you don’t have the answers
1) WHATEVER YOU DO, DON’T WALK AWAY
Your kid asked a really awkward, surprising, gross or terrifying question and you just finished picking your jaw up from the floor. Now what? The time stall is key and the only thing we truly advise NOT doing is walking away. If your child sees you try to avoid a question, it will only increase their curiosity and feed the thoughts racing through their already questioning minds. Stay calm and stay put.
2) ASK THE 5 W’S
If you immediately don’t know what to say, a good place to start is with the “5 W’s”: Who were you talking with that about? What made you think of that? Where did this come up? When did this come up (or how long has this been on your mind)? Why do you think this is important to talk about? Most likely, their answers to these questions, if asked at a slow, calm pace, will lead you to the deeper concern of where to take the conversation next.
3) HOW YOU ANSWER IS AS IMPORTANT AS WHAT YOU ANSWER
There’s no right way to answer any one question, but each kid’s brain works differently and can benefit from different teaching styles. If your kid is more creative, try to explain things through a story, or something they can visually conceptualize. If you think your child is more type-A, tell him exactly how it impacts him and if possible, relate it back to a past experience. Sometimes kids need to know the emotional consequences to understand the larger issue. Relating back to their feelings can go a long way.
4) YOU CAN ALWAYS REVISIT A QUESTION LATER IF YOU THINK OF A BETTER ANSWER
There’s pressure as parents to think you have to know it all, but sometimes it takes time to figure out the best way to navigate a situation. Use the tactics above to get deeper into their question and figure out the best advice to give in the moment (if they ask for it, of course). But if you think of a better way to explain it later, you can always revisit the question. Remember— you don’t have only one shot at giving good parenting advice.
The Government of Canada also has COVID-19 mental health resources available for children and youth. The link attached has limited information for: “What happens when you get sick,” but does deliver the importance of not spreading it to others. Click here to learn more.
If you want to share your own experience and perspectives on the recent increase or if you’ve had similar conversations, feel free to write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.