It can be hard to explain what COVID-19 is to young kids. So, as part of a UK-based project, kids have been channelling their creative sides as a way to show what they think the coronavirus looks like. And in one child’s imagination, it bears an eerie similarity to a dog with three eyes.
The project aims to help parents and carers begin conversations about the pandemic with their kids, according to Patrick Tonks, creative director at Great Bean Bags, who started the project.
“There’s no denying 2020 has been a terrible year for many of us. In an attempt to embrace the situation we are all in, we wanted to see the pandemic through the eyes of children and get an insight to how they view what’s going on,” he told HuffPost UK.
One drawing came with the caption: “No rainbow, no touching people, no touching flowers, no touching birds and no touching leaves.” We relate.
It’s a good idea, in general, to get your child to draw or paint whatever they’re worried about, coronavirus or not. Child clinical psychologist Lucy Russell said it can help them find the words for something they find hard to describe, or ask about.
“Often a child’s reactions to such an event will mirror the parent(s),” she told HuffPost UK. “So, if parents are able to stay calm and continue with life in as normal a way as possible, then the child will (very likely) pick up on all the verbal and non-verbal signs of containment and be able to do the same. Adults should communicate the implications of the virus in the context of ensuring the child feels safe and contained.”
Russell also recommends drawing with your child. “Try drawing a picture of a human body and asking your child to draw what they feel when they are worried or anxious,” she said.
“Physical symptoms of anxiety are normal when the brain perceives danger. The danger is not always as big as the brain thinks it is. It reacts in a similar way whether it is a tiny danger or a major danger. You can help your child notice these signs, and explain how normal they are.
“This will help your child feel less frightened.”
Russell also gave six tips for helping your child deal with their feelings about Covid-19.
Shift focus to what can be controlled
Russell suggests making a list of things to do, which includes simple pleasures like when to decorate the Christmas tree together, family film nights and prioritizing a good night’s sleep.
Limit access to the news
This doesn’t mean avoiding telling your child the truth when they ask you, Russell says, but try not to swamp them with bad news and scary headlines. Limit your child’s access to the news – young children’s brains won’t have developed the ability to balance fears with rational thoughts. Try listening to music, or watch age-appropriate bulletins together.
Work on breathing
Deep, slow breathing helps stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system, the part of the nervous system that calms and soothes us. Try breathing in for three and out for five, three times; three times a day. You could also try free meditations with your children at bedtime.
Soothe the senses
Try concentrating on each of the five senses, and creating activities to nourish them, as a family. Russell recommends: Taste: Make soothing hot chocolate or a comforting casserole. Touch: Have a sensual bubble bath. Wrap your child tightly in a blanket. Smell: Go outside and explore the smells of the plants and flowers you can see. Hearing: Focus on using a calming tone of voice in your family, play calming music. Vision: Spend time making at least one room into a calm, uncluttered space where your mind (and your child’s) can rest if you need to spend a lot of time at home.
Keep up routines
We’ve said it often the past nine months: Children thrive on structure and routine. “Routine and predictability are especially important in times of uncertainty such as these. They make us feel a little more in control, and enhance feelings of safety. Preserve as many routines at home as you can. If you have movie nights with your child on a Friday, and you go for a walk on a Saturday, then make extra effort to keep these going,” Russell says
Find the positives
This can be really hard if you’re feeling overwhelmed yourself, Russell admits, but she says you could try and focus on the fact you’re able to spend more quality time as a family. You could also try praising your children every time they demonstrate resilience – and if all else fails, look for an example of good news amongst the bad.
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This article originally appeared on HuffPost and has been updated.