How can I help my children connect with others during the coronavirus pandemic?
To help your child process these feelings, start by acknowledging them. We all miss others at times and it feels good to be heard. Ask your child what he or she wants to say or do with those they miss. Validate their thoughts and feelings, make a plan for when you can connect with the person if possible, and then move on to a calming activity or story.
For example, if during her bedtime routine your toddler says she misses Nana and wants to give her hugs and kisses, you can acknowledge this by saying “You must love Nana very much. It’s hard to miss someone you love. We can call her on the phone tomorrow!” and then transition into a calming bedtime story.
Or, if your child misses his friends and wants to play with them you could respond with “Your friends are so fun and caring – I can see why you miss them! Missing friends can make you feel lonely, sad, and maybe even mad. It is no fun. Let’s think of some fun things you like to do with your friends, and make a plan to talk to your friends later. What game do you think your friend is playing now?” Once your child responds, then direct them to a game you can do together. “I bet your friends would like this game…” Keep the game calming and caring (e.g., shadow puppets, board game). Work with your child to highlight what they can do and ways that they can connect (via phone calls, video chats, pictures).
There is no answer that will work for all children all of the time, but many children feel better when they are heard/acknowledged and can be directed toward another activity.
Finally, work toward having scheduled social times for your kids. Find a time each day that you can connect with loved ones via phone or video. This can be story time during the bedtime routine as described above, or a specific time for children to connect with their friends. Some families are having parties via Zoom or Google hangouts, for example. Or, connect with some other parents to set up a virtual play date where your kids are all playing with the same type of toy or doing a similar craft activity. If the connection can’t be “in the moment,” get creative and help your little one send voice or video messages to his friends or family.
This post was written in the Spring of 2020. Please follow your local guidelines and advice from family health care providers for appropriate, current coronavirus safety measures.