All the tips on talking to kids about the coronavirus pandemic — and a pantheon of science fiction scenarios — did not include sarcastic, nagging teenagers.
First came the cancellation of an out-of-state road trip.
“Ugh! We never do anything fun,” said my daughter.
“I’m not surprised. Life’s a constant letdown,” said my son flippantly.
Next was cutting the visit to Nana. She and my stepfather are heart patients, and even the common cold will waylay them for weeks.
“What?! This is ridiculous. We’re fine,” says my daughter.
When notified schools were out until at least April 6, there was no rejoicing.
“So, what you’re telling me is that we are going to have to stay in the house for three weeks? No friends, no Nana, no movie theaters, no mall, no nothing? Is that what you’re saying?” my daughter said through clenched teeth.
At least they retired to their rooms to stew in (somewhat) silence. That was the start of spring break.
What they are beginning to understand is that this is unprecedented. It is not a snow day, hype or hoax.
It’s about listening to health experts and learning from history and mistakes other countries have made.
The difficulty is that kids — and a growing number of adults — don’t see the problem; they don’t comprehend the seriousness.
Prevention requires faith that actions are keeping a bad thing at bay.
This national emergency crept up on most Americans. It brings uncertainty, anxiety and sometimes disbelief. Many parents wring their hands over how to handle it with kids, from preschool to teens.
Honesty, open communication, factual information and age appropriateness are the top recommendations from mental health experts.
Don’t discount parents’ innate ability to read their child. Some children are natural worriers while others have a more straight-forward or laid back reaction.
With young children, keys to a calm home are keeping a routine, answering questions directly and reassuring them of their safety. Don’t overwhelm them with information not asked for.
For kids needing more comfort, try modeling things like hand washing or wiping down surfaces. If they can do something productive toward their fear, it will lessen their fear.
Older kids get a little more complex as they are exposed to more social media and chatter from their classmates and friends.
My son knew more than I thought. He told me about the origins of the virus, the mortality rates, how it spread and comparisons to other diseases.
His sources were credible, information correct and the self-quarantine didn’t faze him. He’s a bit of a homebody anyway.
But, my daughter needed help sorting fact from fiction. Her friends had the political mixed up with the medical, adding to confusion.
It offered a chance to talk about finding original sources to stories and ignoring online memes.
Empathy is a big part of what the nation’s public health experts are asking. It’s a wonderful life lesson.
Just because my family is healthy and seems fine doesn’t mean they aren’t carriers of a virus that could devastate someone else, like my Mom.
This helped my daughter understand why staying away until the danger zone passes is the right thing to do. We can work on doing our part, not for us, but for others.
It doesn’t mean she isn’t mad about it. She’s a social butterfly with a lot of camps, classes and get-togethers up in the air.
A lot of kids are disappointed.High school seniors are understandably upset over the possibility of missing their milestone moments. Their lives are quickly shifting into adulthood, and now they are missing these weeks with friends.
Give them a message of encouragement and hug when it’s safe.
As my kids stay in isolation in the foreseen future, the challenge will be to keep them occupied.
Right now, their classes are not moving online. Not all students have computers and internet, showing a gap in emergency preparedness when schools must be temporarily closed for weeks at a time.
Those with internet access can find plenty of online resources to keep younger children engaged. Some districts, like Union, have posted suggestions for daily work for families to follow or sent extra work home last week.
Teenagers are different beasts.
Getting my son pumped to do algebra voluntarily isn’t going to happen, but that online driver’s education course will.
Because our family didn’t spend money on a trip, we’re using some of that to up the allowance for kids finishing home projects. The leaves need to be bagged, bathrooms deep cleaned, garage sorted and closets cleaned out.
We’re letting the kids experiment with cooking meals and desserts. Part of this independence will be clean up.
This plethora of family time will likely involve streaming movies, board games, playing catch, bike riding and hiking trails.
None of this is the same as the trip we were planning, but it will produce memories of a different sort.
Hopefully, they will look back and tell a tale of Americans sacrificing for the greater good to stop a deadly virus.