Is the world sick, Mummy?

That was the question my son posed to me last night at bedtime.  He’s 4 years old.

Maybe I’m just speaking for myself here, but I think it’s easy to forget that our kids might be picking up on some different vibes these days.  Routines, as our kids knew them, have been obliterated. In their place is a strange new normal, one where they are always at home, always with Mum and Dad, and always watching tv eating snacks washing their hands.

I’m no expert when it comes to parenting; most of my knowledge in this department has come from trusted mama friends or from episodes of Workin’ Moms. I do know this, though: Kids are always listening.  It may not seem that way when you are asking them to do something like clean up their toys, or not do something like colour their sister’s hair with marker, but don’t be fooled.  Those little ears are like military radars: they miss nothing.

Anxiety disorders are on the rise in young people. Kids have access to way more information than ever before, and some of the information they are consuming is too much for their developing brains to fully process or understand.

So whether your child is four or fourteen, I humbly offer up these suggestions to help you minimize some of their worrying:

  1. Don’t watch the news when your child is in the room, or within hearing-range of the tv.  It’s true that the talking heads on television will be of little interest to most children, but the words ‘state of emergency’, ‘disease’, and ‘death rate’ are being used so regularly by reporters that kids are bound to absorb them on some level.
  2. Talk to your kids about ‘the why’ behind the social distancing and self-isolating measures people are taking. Understanding that they are helping to fight the illness simply by being at home might give them a sense of agency at a time when kids have very little of that.
  3.  As much as you can, put your phone down when you’re with your kids. Play with them. Talk with them about normal life stuff.  Kick the soccer ball around with them. Bake and colour and build Lego towers with them.  Your presence during these strange times – and I’m not just talking physical presence – will bring them a greater sense of security than anything else.

My son’s question caught me off-guard last night.  Since we’ve been self-isolating, he’s been so busy wreaking havoc and terrorizing his little sister that it didn’t occur to me that his 4-year-old brain might be absorbing snippets here and there of what’s happening in the world.  But he’s a smart little human; I didn’t give him enough credit.

What I did give him was a big hug, and then I said: “Yes, honey, the world has a bit of a cold right now. But it’s going to get better.”

(I can practically hear you rolling your eyes, Reader.)

Get well soon, World.


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