Talking about Coronavirus with kids – Disappointments and cancellations

Talking about Coronavirus with kids – Disappointments and cancellations

We have all been experiencing the disappointment, frustration, sadness, confusion…. about missing out on our favorite things right now. They have cancelled our favorite classes, our favorite activities, closed our favorite restaurants and local gyms. In one way or another, all of us have felt the loss of something during this time.

I have been interviewed by several media outlets and asked by parents – “How do I help my child cope with all of this?”

So here’s a few tips related to the emotions around the disappointments and cancellations.

Try NOT to “put it in perspective” right away.  Instead, use empathetic listening.

As our kids are describing their sadness, disappointment or anger, try NOT to just right to the “it’s way worse somewhere else” speech. That will not be helpful right now.  Here’s the thing. When our kids come to us feeling disappointed or sad about missing something, that is a fair emotion for them to be feeling in that moment. Aren’t we all a little sad about something going on right now? Imagine if you came to your spouse or friend and say, “I’m sad about….” and they responded with… “Well there are other people who have it worse than you!” UGH. That feels gross.

Unfortunately, I have heard a lot of this in my therapy office and I am tempted to do this with my own kids from time to time. As they are “whining” about something they missed, I am tempted to think “sheesh…don’t be so dramatic.” – But as I pause and get re-focused on what they are saying, using empathetic listening is always a good go-to. This article shares a definition of empathetic listening “requires that we accompany a person in her moment of sadness, anguish, self-discovery, challenge (or even great joy!).” This joining is so important to our kids. Especially now when they are out of their routine, missing social connections with friends, and experiencing boredom frequently.

Share and model your sadness, disappointment

Another tip is to share your own feelings about missing things, too. It is fair for our kids to see and hear us being somewhat emotional about missing things as well. Yesterday, my 10-year-old asked me, “Mommy, which do you prefer… being here with us and not going to work, or going to work and not being here with us.” My answer was that there are many advantages to both parts of that. I love my work and my job. I value the work I get to do everyday. But I have longed for more time with them while they are little. And so I shared that I was a little sad about missing things they would otherwise be doing at school. And I miss my friends at work and being able to freely go to places without second thoughts about germs and viruses.

Sharing some of our sadness lets them know it is okay for them to be sad, too.

Final tip: sharing your feelings

Fear and anxiety are different than sadness and disappointment. I encourage you not to engage them in what YOU are worried about, what you are fearful of. This will be too hard for most of our kids to manage. They will hear your fear and it will become anxiety for them. Our kids have enough going on, they don’t need our anxiety on top of it. Instead, manage your own anxiety by reaching out to friends, or self-care strategies. Keeping kids (and yourself) engaged in activities that are healthful – exercise, getting outside, crafts, etc – will keep more and more fear away and peace within.



photo cred pixabay