As Spring Break begins earlier than expected for our community, it’s understandable that the unexpected changes and uncertainty may result in students feeling anxious, scared or confused at some point in the days and weeks ahead.
With assistance from our Head of Personal Counselling Carole McMillan and school counsellors Theresa Hogg-Jackson and Tessa Lloyd, we offer some tips on how to help children through worries that come during a situation that impacts the whole world.
Children, particularly younger ones, will emulate your behavior. The calmer you can be in front of them, the calmer they will be. They are likely to absorb the content of adult conversations on this topic. Try to be mindful of how you talk about the ongoing situation in front of your children and do your best so they don’t pick up your worries or anxieties.
Encourage open and honest communication
Start a conversation to ensure your child knows you are a resource for them 24/7. Remind them that they can speak with you about any worries or questions they’re having. Talking to your child in an honest but age-appropriate way is important, particularly since the early start to Spring Break might be the first direct impact that COVID-19 has had on their life.
When talking with younger children, you can frame the conversation around topics they can relate to: “Yes, we are taking extra precautions just like when we look both ways before we cross the street. Starting Spring Break early is something the school is doing to make sure that we and the whole school community is safe and taken care of.”
When talking with older children, you can frame the conversation around community and being there for one another. Remember, this could be the first mass global issue they have ever witnessed. “We will get through this together. The changes that we’re making are not just for ourselves but to create a healthier community around us. We have to take care of each other, and sometimes that means changing our own behaviours for the sake of others.”
Yes, this can be a scary time – and it’s OK to validate those concerns. But with validation comes a need to reassure your children that smart, talented and capable people are doing everything they can in Victoria, BC, Canada and around the world to protect people. The situation will improve but it might take some time, so letting them know that decisions are being made at all levels with people’s health and wellness in mind is important.
Normalize new habits
Life and habits might be a little different for the time being but this is our new normal (at least for now), and that’s OK. Normalize these changes and integrate them into your child’s day-to-day as quickly as possible: “We now wash our hands more frequently,” or “We’re not going to go to events with lots of people.” Help your child develop habits by looking for opportunities to pair it with a fun activity (like picking a favourite song for when they wash their hands). Some of our behavioural changes and the healthy habits we develop in the coming weeks will likely become life-long habits.
Talk about media literacy
Children will be reading and hearing information from many sources, and it’s important they understand how to vet the media. Depending on the source of information, messaging they see can be incorrect, hyperbolic or xenophobic. Encourage your child to limit their time digesting media and help guide them toward reliable information that has sources and/or references, or information that comes from a government institution such as the BC Centre for Disease Control or World Health Organization.
Look for opportunities for you and your child to help make someone else’s life better as we all navigate this shared experience together. Can you get groceries for someone? Can you walk the dog for an elderly neighbor who can’t go outside? Encourage your child to reach out to schoolmates and friends for regular check-ins. As a boarding school, we have students and alumni from all around the world who may be having a tougher experience back home; be there for each other however and wherever you can.
The school has compiled a list of Frequently Asked Questions related to COVID-19. If you or your child want to talk with one of our school’s personal counsellors during Spring Break, please contact Carole McMillan at 250-213-6524 or by email at [email protected].