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What does a parent say to a young child worried about the changes in their world? How can we keep our own stress from being felt by our children? Early Programs Director and former 92Y Nursery School Director Ellen Birnbaum offers some advice:

Working from home, going from one device to the other, I find that I actually have to remind myself to breathe. As we are role models for our children in managing anxiety, we have to remember that we need to take time for relaxation, even if just for short periods. Children are aware of and sensitive to our tone of voice and facial expression. If we look worried, they will react with worry. This crosses all age ranges. With younger children, less is more when it comes to responding to their worries. Children might be asking questions right now like, “Why are we not going to school?” or “Why do we have to stay home?” Parents can respond by simply saying, “We need to keep safe.” My grandchildren—who we typically see at least once a week—are asking why we can’t see each other. We respond by saying, “We will see each other soon.”

Reading stories to children is a great way to help them deal with their emotions, and can give parents additional ways to talk to them and reassure them. Ellen loves these three books:

For very young children:

  • Wemberly Worried by Kevin Henkes
  • Swimmy by Leo Leonni

For four- and five-year-olds:

  • Brave Irene by William Steig

Please note that all 92Y regularly scheduled in-person programs are suspended.