Saturday, March 14, 2020

Explaining COVID 19 to Children

There is quite a bit of information – some true and some fake – on the news and social media about COVID 19. Here are some guidelines for talking with children in a way that is effective and calming.

1. Don’t let your children hear you make light of the situation. It is quite likely they have heard mixed messages about the pandemic, and hearing you joke about it will only add to their confusion.

2. When talking with your children, refrain from dismissing the situation as nothing to worry about. Instead, be calm and honest in your explanation. For a child, a good explanation will not increase fear, but will instead, answer it. By explaining the situation you will be showing them that they can trust you and trust God.

3. Answer their questions and explain COVID 19 matter-of-factly. Give the simplest definition and add to that if you feel your child is old enough to understand more. Here is a good beginning:

COVID 19, sometimes called the coronavirus, is a sickness like a cold that can make some people sicker than others. Healthy people get the virus by being close to sick people. We can also get the germs by touching things and putting our hands near our mouth or nose without washing them.  The best thing we can do is wash our hands and send the germs down the drain. To help us keep safe, doctors and others who know about this kind of sickness are asking us to stay at home and away from large groups of people.

Here is a simple video to explain hand-washing:

4. Children will be confused by the changes in routine such as not attending school, childcare, or church or parents staying home from work. When you explain the reasons for this change, begin your explanation with the words “to keep us safe.” These words will help your child to understand that no one is being punished for being sick and that these changes are not a reaction to fear. Being reminded about safety will also help to reduce the anxiety that comes from a change in routine.

5. If you are not sick, look for ways to increase your interaction time with your children. They will likely need more hugs and conversations with you, as this will remind them of what is familiar. Rather than each family member going off to a separate room, think of ways to bring everyone together.

6. Pray together. Talk about how God is bigger than sickness. Remind them that God loves them and cares about them. Point out that the changes in routine, as well as hand washing, are ways that God is keeping us safe. 

When we focus on what keeps us safe instead of the danger, and when we teach children that God is in control, we are able to use a challenging situation to cultivate resilience.

God’s blessings to you as you navigate COVID 19. Here is a verse of comfort for you and your children:

In peace I will both lie down and sleep; for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety. Psalm 4:8

Wednesday, January 8, 2020

The Serious Work of Role-Play

Role-play activities at home and school are significant learning times. Children are developing brain skills that allow them to pay attention, remember rules, and problem– solve. These skills are known as executive function skills, and they are essential for any learning.

In role-play  activities, children develop language and social skills. These are not skills learned in a circle-time lesson. Children learn language and social skills by interacting with other people. Role-play allows children to try new words and behaviors to get feedback from their peers.

Role-play also allows children to practice particular emotion-driven behaviors such as creating, fixing, nurturing, and teaching. These are also basic building blocks of future learning and work. Again, these cannot be taught with worksheets at tables. Instead, children learn through experiment, practice, and interaction. Role-play might be the most critical part of a young child’s day!

It is also essential to look at what role play does NOT do. It does not predict what a child will be interested in at a later date. Young children try on many different roles to learn from them and to see what fits and what doesn’t fit. My daughter loved playing with trucks and wearing construction hard-hats. As a three-year-old, when we passed road crews, she insisted that was what she wanted to be when she grew up. I did not put too much stock in this as I knew she also wanted to be a mermaid. As an adult, she is an elementary music and art teacher. However, playing with building toys and fixing toys as a child may have encouraged her to be interested in tools. She is the person in her family who is most likely to make a house repair, and I am proud to see that.

Role-play also does not push a child in a particular direction. It is not an indicator of gender confusion, nor will it encourage it. My son played with his sister’s dolls and dress-up clothing. He tried on many different roles, but it did not mess with his understanding of who God created him to be. I like to think that he practiced the skills of nurturing, which put him in a good position as a school IT person. He has infinite patience working with teachers and students when computers don’t work. I know this because I am one of those teachers.

When boys play with what we typically consider to be girlish toys or when girls play within boy dominated play areas, we might be tempted to worry that they are confused about their gender. In fact, true gender dysphoria is very rare and shows itself in much stronger symptoms. When children play, they are learning and growing, testing and trying, and developing in the way God designed their brains to mature.

Especially in a world where screens around every turn tempt children, role play is more important now than ever before. Parents and teachers should encourage role-play, as well as other play that involves children interacting with each other at every opportunity.