Andy Blum, LCSW, Early Childhood-5th Grade Counselor

How do we answer our children’s questions in this difficult time?

Our children have many questions in this new and difficult time and we, as grownups, sometimes struggle with how to answer when the answers are unknown. So what do we do?  Conscious Discipline has a guide to helping with these questions.

First, there are usually two types of questions children ask. The first type of question is when your child is looking for your understanding. They are feeling worried or insecure. These are the questions that usually come in the form of “What if...?” or “What’s going to happen when...?” These questions are about the unknown and come with an emotional component.  The child is saying, “I am anxious or worried.”  With these questions the emotional piece needs to be acknowledged and addressed first before the child can hear information.  

Before anything else, offer understanding to your child. You can say, “yes it makes sense you would worry about that”, or “it is hard when we don’t know what will happen.” Your tone, facial expression and body need to reflect concern and understanding. You need to be present with your child. If you can’t be present at that time for whatever reason, you can say “I really want to answer your question, can you write it down or draw it for me so we can talk about it at lunch or at story time?” You can also have a question jar for them to put these questions in.   

Once you have acknowledged their feelings, give them usable information. For example, if your child asks, “What is going to happen if I get sick?” You can say, “It makes sense that you would be worried about that. These are all the things we are doing to keep ourselves safe and healthy. We are washing our hands, leaving space between each other, etc...”  For little children you can make visuals and point to the visuals. This can be a picture of someone washing their hands. Remember, young children see the world in pictures,  so you can point to all the pictures of the things you are doing to stay safe. You can also give them an activity to do. You can tell them they can help by washing their toys or making cards for the health care workers. Their anxiety is about not knowing what is going to happen in the future; being in the present helps them to feel calm. Bring them back to the now.

The second type of question is just one that seeks information. These questions are usually presented in the form of “Why?”  The child’s tone and body will reflect this. They are not anxious; they just need information. When presenting this kind of question, the child is ready to receive the information.They are not looking to get their emotional needs met, just to acquire the information. A question like this may look like “Why can’t you play with me when you are at home?” To answer these questions, you can provide visual, safe and predictable information.  “From 9am to 12pm, Daddy needs to work. At 12, we can have lunch together.”  Show them a clock or picture. “Monday through Friday, I will be working.” Show them a calendar. “And on Saturday, we can play blocks.” The concrete predictability of the information helps them to feel safe and secure.

When so much of our world is uncertain.  Providing answers to our children can help alleviate their anxiety.  

Virtually here for you.