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Syracuse University

03/25/2020 | News release | Archived content

What Parents Should Say to Their Children – and How They Should Act Around Them – While Sheltering at Home

For Immediate Release:

March 25, 2020

If you're looking for an expert source to provide insight and perspective on how parents should talk to their children and act around them while sheltering at home, Syracuse University psychology professor Dr. Joshua Felver is available for an interview.

Dr. Felver's research focuses on interventions to promote self-regulation, with an emphasis on mindfulness interventions. He is interested in how mindfulness interventions can be implemented in public school settings with students and teachers to support academic functioning and classroom behavior, and in families to improve parent-child communication and parent emotional regulation. Visit the Mind Body Laboratory website to learn more about Dr. Felver's current research projects.

For use in your stories, here's what Dr. Felver says about how parents should act around their children during this crisis:

'During times of crisis, such as our world's current COVID-19 pandemic, one of the burdens that parents face is how to talk to their children about these current events. There are two important things that parents should consider in this dialogue. The first is what to talk about. It's important that children have basic information communicated at a level that they can understand. Children don't need to know about 'flattening the curve' or defense appropriations; that is beyond their understanding and not useful information. They need to know basic facts that they can comprehend: the coronavirus is a cold; we wash out hands and stay inside to keep ourselves from getting sick; people wear masks to keep safe.

'They also need to be given space to ask questions; parents cannot read their children's minds and without checking-in and giving space for child's questions, kids may be harboring very worried thoughts (e.g., that they might die) that parents can quickly address and provide reassurance for.

'But these what questions are only half of what parents can do to help their children. The other half is to carefully consider how to talk about these events. Children are looking to their parents for information about how to make sense of the world, and if parents are highly stressed, anxious, scared, and on the edge of panic, no matter what they are saying, children are going to implicitly get the message that something is wrong and there is something to be stressed, anxious, and worried about, thus putting children at risk for becoming stressed, anxious, and worried.

'With this in mind, one of the most important things parents can do is to model that everything is going to be alright. It's very important for parents to practice selfcare, to exercise, to use all their coping strategies to embody calmness so that children will see that everything is ok, and thus be reassured that they are safe. This is no different than the rationale for why if you are on an airplane and the oxygen masks deploy adults are instructed take care of themselves first before their children. Caring for one's own mental health and stress during times of crisis is a critical - and too frequently overlooked - aspect of how we can best care for our children. By embodying calmness, telling children basic information, and giving children the space to ask their questions, parents can provide reassurance to their kids that will create a less tense and worried household in the weeks ahead.'

Thank you for your consideration. To request an interview with Dr. Felver or for more information, please contact:

Matt Michael
Media Relations Specialist
T 315.443.2990 M 315.254.9037
[email protected]

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