Like many people, I’ve spent a lot of time reading all of the things about COVID-19 online in recent days. Interspersed in there, I have been seeing some really lovely words of wisdom as far as how those of us who care for children can be thoughtful in the ways that we approach talking about everything that’s happening in our community and in the wider world. 

It can be so tricky to find the right balance of information to share with children, and to keep them from overhearing things that may feel scary when we are swimming in news of a crisis. Infants and toddlers have absorbent minds and emotions, and pick up on more than we can know. Every family will have their own approach, and it’s impossible to say what’s exactly right, but I know we all want to do our best!

I would like to share some guidelines/expectations for conversations at school surrounding all of this, as well as some good reads I’ve stumbled across. 

First, we don’t have to not talk about it.  As I said, we are swimming in it, and new protocols, routines, and restrictions are affecting our–and the kids’–everyday lives. Simple acknowledgement of things that are different for the children will go a long way toward easing tension and anxiety around changes. 

  • We are washing our hands a lot to help keep everyone healthy!
  • We’ll take your temperature now to make sure you aren’t sick before school. Look, I will take my temperature too!
  • Sometimes people get sick! People who are sick need to stay home and rest until they get better.
  • We can help keep everyone safe when we stay home to heal. 

Part of the strength of our community comes from sharing in each other’s experiences, among teachers and parents, and I think that some conversations between adults are just fine. It is so helpful, when things feel out of control, to connect and commiserate, to acknowledge and feel seen and cared for. Our daily check-ins, our how-was-your-weekends, will certainly center around this for the near future, and that’s okay.

  • Thank you for the hand sanitizer, it’s so hard to find any to buy! (SERIOUSLY, THANK YOU!)
  • The grocery store was really bananas yesterday! Long lines and no toilet paper!
  • We are all feeling a little cooped up since we had to stay home all weekend! 

However, I will ask that everyone steer clear of topics that feel intense or scary within earshot of children. As long as we are open, I feel a great responsibility to keep school as a place where children can feel comfortable, safe, and confident in their caregivers, and adult talk about scary news doesn’t fit! Even with the babies who cannot yet understand the words we’re using, I ask that everyone remains mindful–even if they don’t understand exactly what we’re saying, they are still building lifelong foundations of understanding about how people behave and how they fit in that, and we need to be aware that the tone of our interactions permeate their environment. 

Along those lines, please try to maintain a calm, confident, energy. This is something we strive for all of the time, of course, but it is extra important when anxiety is creeping in at the edges for adults. By all means, find time and space to let your feelings out (I’m a willing listener if you catch me away from kids!), but we want to project an energy that Yep, maybe there’s a lot going on, but we’re handling it, our first job is to keep you safe and we’re ON IT.  Fake it ’til you make it. 

Some resources!

Here’s a good read from Janet Lansbury on navigating the waters of Big Adult Feelings around young children. 

Here are some guidelines shared by a developmental psychologist on Facebook.

Here’s some wonderful writing by a therapist parent from a local preschool. 

Also, a really A+ quote floating around the ECE facebook channels right now (source):

Most young kids will remember how their family home felt during the coronavirus panic more than anything specific about the virus. Our kids are watching us and learning about how to respond to stress and uncertainty. Let’s wire our kids for resilience, not panic. 

-Dr. Becky

With deep care, affection, and support

❤ Savannah 

One thought on “COVID-19: Talking To and Around the Youngest Children

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