The coronavirus has completely upended our lives, causing stress and anxiety for everyone, no matter their age. As parents, however, you have the extra responsibility of not only keeping your anxiety in check, but also the anxiety of your children as well. You don’t want them to worry, but you also want them to take things seriously.
If you’re not sure where to begin, then here a few ways you can support your kids during the COVID-19 outbreak:
Talk to them honestly
If you keep your kids in the dark, they’ll only grow more anxious. As such, you should speak honestly with them, answering any questions that they have. You don’t want to make them more nervous, and some details they may not be able to understand, so only answer the questions that they have, and try to keep your answers short and simple. The CDC also has guidelines that you can followon how best to speak with your children about the coronavirus outbreak.
Stick to your normal schedule as much as possible
Children take comfort in routine, especially during times of crisis. While you won’t be able to stick to the exact schedule you had before the pandemic (after all, most children are not going to school at this time), you should still have them getting up and going to bed at the same time. Other daily traditions such as family dinners should also take place to give a sense of normalcy.
We all grew up with that favorite blanket or teddy bear. We’d sleep with it, eat with it, and drive around in the car with it. These transitional objects were a great source of joy and comfort to us in our early years, but in the time of coronavirus, they have become increasingly important both to our children.
What are transitional objects?
Transitional objects, also known as comfort objects, are a doll, stuffed animal, blanket, or other type of object that provides psychological comfort to a child. They’re typically that security blanket or teddy bear that your child will not let go of, no matter how hard you try. They’re called transitional objects because they help children transition from being completely dependent on their parents (typically their mother) to becoming more independent.
Transitional objects and coronavirus
So why, exactly, are transitional objects useful during the coronavirus outbreak? Simply put, they help to ease anxiety, both during normal times and during times of crisis. Explains Dr. Daniel Lewin: “Children have less capacity in some cases to express their fears than adults. Transitional objects are wonderful ways for children to express them.”
The coronavirus outbreak has caused a lot of uncertainty, and as a result, a lot of anxiety. Even if our children don’t completely understand what is happening, they can pick up on the anxiety and stress of their parents. Transitional objects, however, can provide comfort to children while also helping them work through their own emotions about this crisis.
Take a walk around the neighborhood and what do you see? Empty streets, shuttered businesses, and cars lining their driveways. However, if you take a closer look, you may see something sitting by a window: a teddy bear.
From the United States to France to Japan, individuals are placing teddy bears in their windowsor in their yards as part of a worldwide ‘bear hunt’ for kids.
Essentially a social distancing form of a scavenger hunt, the game is meant to distract kids from the current stresses of the coronavirus pandemic. Unable to go to school or play games with their friends, most kids can only go out for walks or drives around the neighborhood with their families. So, individuals have started placing teddy bears in their windows, on their porches, or in their parked cars to encourage kids to get out of the house and see how many teddy bears they can find.
In Monmouth, Maine, one parent told her local TV station that the teddy bear hunts help distract her kids from the current crisis: “For about an hour we didn’t think about anything else that was happening in the world. It was just about the bears. The kids sat in the back seat. My daughter kept a tally. We kept looking, and it was only that, and I had completely forgotten what was going on until we pulled back into the yard.”
If you’d like to participate, it’s as simple as grabbing a stuffed animal (teddy bear or otherwise) and placing it somewhere in your house or yard where it’s visible from the street. You can put it in your window, or you can get more creative like this family who had their teddy bears doing activities out in the yard.
If you’re a teacher or tutor, here are some ways you can use stuffed animals in your own classroom:
A cuddly and unique stuffed animal can make the perfect class mascot. Mascots create a sense of belonging, uniting everyone in the class and representing diverse classrooms as a solidified unit. Class mascots make kids excited to go to school every day, giving them something fun to look forward to. These special class heroes can increase classroom morale with minimal effort.
Stuffed animals serve as the perfect audience for reading practice. Letting students read books out loud to stuffed animals allows them to practice reading comprehension and fluency while minimizing nerves. Reading with a non-judgmental stuffed animal causes an increase in confidence (and fun!) for young students.
Offer recognition and reward
Kids love positive recognition and rewards for appropriate behaviors and actions. Use stuffed animals in the classroom as a tool for rewarding students for following your classroom rules. For example, let a student that demonstrates good manners sit with a stuffed animal on their desk during class. If a student does a particularly good job with reading something out loud or mastering other course content, let them pick out a stuffed animal to carry around for the day.
There is no shortage of fun ways to use stuffed animals in the classroom! Find teddy bears, unicorns, sea creatures, farm animals, and more at The Zoo Factory.