How to Talk to Kids about Challenging Times

by Kelly Villaruel

We are most certainly in a time of uncertainty and mixed emotions and though it has its challenges, there are many silver linings as well.  My own children used to get really annoyed at me for being so optimistic but I have to say that it has served me without fail in countless scenarios, current times included. What a gift it is that we all get to spend so much time with our families. This is the young child’s dream!!  Life moves at such a rapid pace and I’m betting that not all of us have willingly signed up for the speed that life has been going. What a gift that we get to slow down for just a little while and catch our breath. How wonderful it is that we can just stay home and get to know our own yards so well.  I could go on and on but you might get annoyed like my children. 

While we are practicing “social distancing”, there is a man in our community, Art Ludwig who prefers to use the term “distant socializing” which feels a little more appropriate to me.  With this distant socializing, we can continue to build and maintain a strong community and stay connected to each other, connect deeper to the natural world and hopefully learn a lot about ourselves in the process….all while we continue to procrastinate on those projects that we could do “if only we had enough time at home to do them”.  (I’m sure that’s just my story…).


In the coming days and weeks, I would like to share some insights, inspirations and things to do with your children with nature connection in mind.  I offer it in this way; take what feels right for your family and set aside what you don’t connect with. It’s a lot like trying on shoes, keep what fits, leave behind the rest.  The idea is that you can build your magical Mary Poppins bag of tricks for your own children and the community at large. I used to call it a“tool box” but the reality is that any time we have the opportunity to be with children, it is a magical experience because, in my opinion, children embody the magic that flows through life.  Children are magic. 

So to start, it’s so clear to children that something is going on and as adults, we are tasked with giving them enough information without bringing fear.  Maybe you have already explained the situation to them, maybe you haven’t, but here are some thoughts I have around doing this.  Michael Meade (author and storyteller) defines the role of the adult as the one who carries the burdens and the role of the child as the one who doesn’t carry the burden.  This is so important to keep in mind. 

We adults are the burden carriers. Children have the right to feel safe and secure in their world and environment and when we carry the burdens, they have the opportunity to connect with their surroundings and connect deeply which is what we want for them.  We want them to fall in love with life and the environment so that they will care enough to take care of it when they are older. So how do we accomplish this in such troubling times?


Generally, when something is going on, whether we speak it out loud or not, children feel what we don’t say.  There are 3 questions that can apply to every challenging situation when change is in the air.  The children want to know:  What’s going on?  Am I ok/safe, are you taking care of this? And Can I go play?  We can keep it very simple for them because as adults, we are the carriers of the burden.

Maybe it looks something like this: What’s going on?  There’s a cold going around and we are staying home right now because this will help to keep our community well and our community takes care of each other.   Am I safe/ok, are you taking care of this?  It’s fun to spend so much time with our family and we get to practice our caretaking by washing our hands and remembering to use our elbows when we cough.  We get to practice our very best manners. (they have context for very best manners).  Can I go play?  Let’s go find some…in the backyard…  It’s a very simple response. And as they ask deeper questions, simply answer the question they asked.  It is possible to give them too much information that they aren’t ready to process yet so keep it simple.  They ask the deeper questions as they are ready to process the information. Your children feel good and proud about being able to be caretakers.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *