The ongoing pandemic is taking a toll on children’s mental health. Kids are suffering from anxiety and fear about the virus, long-term social isolation and increased dependency on technology, and more. Andy Slavitt, an expert on the Covid-19 pandemic who hosts the podcast In the Bubble, mentioned in a Facebook Q&A with ParentsTogether that even after the pandemic is over, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) will also be something to watch for in our kids.
However, even in these times Slavitt believes, “There are TONS of things to be hopeful about and TONS of great lessons.” So how can we offer our kids some positivity when the pandemic just seems never-ending to them?
Here are some things to say to kids to give them hope, despite the distressing times we are (still) in. The best part is that these statements are all true!
“A vaccine is already being administered that will help make the virus less dangerous.”
Explain that many healthcare workers have already started receiving the vaccine, and others at high risk of getting dangerously sick from Covid-19 will get the shots soon too. It will be a gradual process, but when most people have received the vaccine, everyone in the community will be safer as a result—even those who haven’t gotten the shots yet.
“The 2021-2022 school year should be mostly back to normal.”
Because of the rollout of the vaccine, Slavitt predicts that by next fall, school will be “98% in person. Lots of kids, lots of noise, lots of fun. Maybe some lingering issues and cautions, but not many.” Although slogging through the rest of the current pandemic school year may seem like a big challenge, knowing that it’s temporary can really help kids feel more optimistic and up for the challenge.
“There have been some positives about this time period—things that we might even miss!”
Encourage kids to look for a silver lining, while acknowledging that a lot of people have suffered. For example, Slavitt shares, “I love telling my kids how lucky I’ve been to get to spend more time with them. Nothing matters more to your kids than how you feel about them.”
He also points out, “There may even be certain things they miss about this time period. The opportunity to pull the good out of a challenging situation is a rare opportunity.” If they’re having trouble thinking of any positives, start a list with one or two things on it, and encourage everyone in the family to keep adding to the list when they think of something. Aside from more time together, you might feel gratitude for having more regular family meals, reconnecting with distant relatives over FaceTime, learning new skills, or finding a new appreciation for the great outdoors.
“You are a part of history.”
Slavitt suggests telling kids “that they are a part of history, that they will remember this period of their lives for a long time.” The Covid-19 pandemic will surely be featured in history lessons in the future—and that perspective may motivate kids to do something productive with their feelings, such as record their stories of the pandemic in a journal.
To make them feel even more like a part of history, think of ways that your family and other people you know have been helpers during the pandemic—for example, by wearing masks and social distancing, cheering people up virtually or through the window, donating to those in need, or being essential workers.
“A lot of people overcame huge challenges and losses, and will come out of this stronger.”
Slavitt also recommends, “Tell them stories about people who overcame hardship—there is something heroic in all of this.” Maybe you know of someone who survived Covid-19, someone who lost their job but found a new calling or hobby, or someone who was lonely but made a new friend.
Even if you can’t think of any examples close to home, there are plenty of hopeful stories out there. For instance, there are people across the country who’ve recovered from Covid-19 and donated convalescent plasma to be used to treat others with the disease, and other brave volunteers who took personal risks to help test the vaccine during trials.
There is, of course, a lot to grieve these days, and talking about those feelings is extremely important too. But these offerings of hope can inspire kids to find positive lessons from the pandemic, and come out of this experience stronger in some ways, and equipped with greater self-awareness.