How to use reframing to comfort your child

Six sentences to use when you are at a loss for words when trying to explain the coronavirus to your child.

At the moment, we are facing a global crisis with the coronavirus pandemic, which is causing a lot of worry. We, as adults find ourselves frightened, and we know our children are feeling the same way. Nobody knows the full effect and the consequences of this virus yet, however, we all know that it will leave deep scars, and result in a long period of re-balancing for the entire ecosystem. Unfortunately, Corona isn’t the only thing to worry about; every day, we are faced with terror, refugees, global warming, plastic pollution, mass shootings, illness, stress, anxiety, and the list goes on. Shutting down physical contact with each other while allowing electronic media to take control of us. It is as though all the years of global mistreatment have come together to show us that there is an urgent need for change.

Gathering proximity
When I think of the fundamental nature of what is going on right now, I feel like shielding myself from the outside world, keeping my loved ones close, and crossing my fingers that this chaos will soon end. I don’t blame anyone for actually doing this because all the things that scare us most have suddenly jumped to the forefront. However, nothing seems to be in our control and therefore it is hard to ignore the constant unease we feel. The fear creeps into our homes and into our minds, as we all try to make sense of the impending reality of this pandemic. It is hard not knowing what the future holds for us.

One way to begin this journey is to start with our little offsprings. Many children are terrified and don’t really grasp what’s going on. They sense something and hear a lot. They see the deserted streets, masks on strangers, and the worries in our eyes. It leaves them with many thoughts and questions. I am focusing on giving my children and the many parents who I am in contact with tools to reframe the entire situation into something more understandable (as much as it is possible), which can provide a little peace in mind. I, therefore, invite you to adopt a positive mindset with reframing and helping your children to feel a bit of control – or awareness in this challenging situation.

Changing the outcome
Reframing means to change an imagined or emotional viewpoint about how a situation is experienced and viewing it differently. Reframing is about redefining negative and inhibitory beliefs into positive and supportive statements, which should definitely be possible with the situation surrounding us being as it is right now. Reframing is not about changing concrete conditions into something else. However, it is about offering a more nuanced perspective on what is going on and therefore leaving the outcome less disturbing and less scary.

You can use reframing as a helpful tool when your child is experiencing fear, worries, or breakdowns as a response to the pandemic. Children need to be calmed down and reassured that there is no need for them to be afraid – careful, yes, but not scared. It is important to make them feel comfort even though we can feel insecure ourselves. You can do so by telling them, clearly and undramatically what Corona is all about. Stay strong and let them know that you are not worried because this is a time when they need to lean on you. If you walk around as a trembling aspen-leaf, your child will do the same, and it doesn’t foster anything positive. If your child gets seriously ill of the virus, then it’s another situation that must be addressed in the right places. Still, until then, children need the security and calmness that we can give them, as some worries must stay with us as their caregivers.

I have created some sentences for you, which can be used as reference in moments when your children are feeling anxious about the coronavirus. Remember, that you must always tell the truth to avoid any misunderstandings, yet, it is essential to leave your children feeling safe and knowledgeable without unanswered questions. If you act with calmness and peace, your child will mirror this and bring that with them.

6 ways to talk about Corona:
‘Currently, there is a virus that infects many people. This means that you cannot go to school, nor be with your friends. It is necessary to take every precaution, like washing hands, and staying away from others, but don’t worry, it will soon be over. You can always come to me, if you have any questions, okay? Let’s read, play, and do some nice things together because I love to be with you.’

‘I hear you, and I can see that you feel uncomfortable with all the coronavirus information that is going on in the world right now, but you are safe here, and I will not leave you. It will be okay again.’

‘We have to take care of other people, and not only think about ourselves. We do that by washing our hands when we have been outside or with other people. We have to cough or sneeze into our elbows, keep away from other people so as not to infect anyone else. This is the best way to help, and I know you are good at that. It feels good to help others, right?’

‘The coronavirus can be life-threatening for those who are old and sick, but for you, it will be just like when you have the flu if you get it. We have to pray for the ones who are in danger and send them some good wishes because they need our superpowers’ (show with your arms that you are strong and healthy.)

‘Don’t worry, my dear. Life sometimes seems scary, and I absolutely understand if you can’t make sense of what is going on in the world right now. But, I want you to know that I understand it and there’s no need for you to worry. This is an adult problem and nothing for you to worry about, I will take care of you.”

‘I need you to know that right now there is a virus many people are becoming sick from. You have probably already heard about it from the media. I want to tell you what I know, and you can ask me any questions you might have about this. I will answer honestly and give you my view on where our focus should be.’

Leave a message of a safe world
Answer honestly, but not necessarily with every detail. Make sure to always leave your child feeling safe and secure when ending the conversation.
I firmly believe that we can change the negative energy and bad vibes little by little in our own small worlds, by thinking about how we frame the words we use positively. You have the choice of going down the destructive road, saying: ‘This is terrifying.’ ‘This is the end of our society.’ ‘Don’t talk to anyone, Peanut, which aren’t calming or helping your child understand the situation very well.’ Or the more favorable one: ‘Come, let’s snuggle and read a story.’ ‘This is just a phase.’ ‘You can talk to anyone, keep a distance, or give a smile instead’.
The way you respond matters more than you may realize and the feeling you leave behind makes a difference. Think about it; if life seems scary to us, then imagine how it must feel for our children. Our children are our responsibility, and we can start changing the world by giving them the tools to manage life’s darker sides. Calming your children down, or changing fear to laugher with words means that you are actually giving your child a lifelong tool to handle challenges and ups and downs.

Please, take the situation seriously. We are all counting on each other to do the right thing. We must take care of each other through careful, compassionate social distancing to flatten the curve so we can all get through this as safely and swiftly as possible.
We can’t take away all the bad things in life, and we shouldn’t, but we can make sure to leave our children feeling secure in the knowledge that the world is a good place for them to grow up.

The basic Coronavirus Guidelines:
Clean your hands often
Avoid close contact
Stay home if you’re sick
Cover coughs and sneezes
Wear a facemask if you are sick
Clean and disinfect
Turn off the television – children don’t benefit from hearing everything. Let news be an adult-thing.

Originally posted on Psychology Today


Iben Sandahl

Iben Sandahl comes from Denmark and is an internationally-renowned public speaker, best-selling author, psychotherapist and educator. She has more than 20 years of experienced insight into child psychology and education, which in a most natural way anchor the Danish way of practicing parenthood. Her work has been featured in The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, The Huffington Post, Salon, El Païs, Reader’s Digest, Greater Good Science, Elle and many more - and her main mission is to help parents raise happy and confident children. She writes for Psychology Today ( ) and leads an European Erasmus financed project on how to implement empathy in schools and institutions all over Europe.

Comments are closed.