How To Talk To Your Kids About Coronavirus
Parents around the world are faced with the difficult task of trying to explain COVID-19 to their children. Here’s how to inform and reassure them…
We can’t escape news about coronavirus (COVID-19) and it’s easy to feel overwhelmed or anxious. Our children are also trying to make sense of what’s happening and they’re looking to us for information and comfort. Here’s how to talk about it with them…
1. Find out what they already know
Ask your children what they’ve heard about coronavirus at day care or school. This is a great starting point because it allows you to gently correct any misconceptions or address any fears they might have.
2. Tell them the truth in child-friendly terms
Don’t be tempted to lie to protect them because it could make them more fearful when they find out the truth. Explain the situation in simple, developmentally appropriate terms. Avoid volunteering too much information – focus on answering your child’s questions to the best of your ability. You can find up-to-date information on the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website.
If your child is very young, you may only need to explain that there’s a new sickness going around and that we need to be more mindful of practicing good hygiene. The downloadable Covibook is a wonderful tool to inform and reassure young children.
School-age children will need more information because they might be confused by what they’ve heard on the news or at school. I told my six-year-old, “It’s a new flu that’s spreading around the world. Kids and healthy grown-ups aren’t likely to get very sick from it, but people who aren’t as healthy can get quite sick. We can prevent it from spreading by washing our hands a lot and following the other guidelines we’re given. Doctors and scientists are working hard to make sure we’re safe, so we don’t need to worry.”
Teenagers are more likely to find their own information online, so ask them about the websites they’re visiting and point them to reliable resources such as the CDC and World Health Organization.
3. Empower them
Help children feel in control by teaching them how to protect themselves and their loved ones from coronavirus. Show them how to wash their hands thoroughly for 20 seconds (or as long as it takes to sing “Happy Birthday”) and to cover a cough or sneeze with their elbow. The Wiggles Handwashing Song is a fun way for young children to learn proper handwashing technique.
You can also encourage your kids to eat healthy food and get plenty of exercise and rest to keep their bodies strong and healthy.
4. Try to remain calm
While it’s entirely natural to feel stressed or worried about coronavirus, we should do our best to avoid passing these feelings on to our children. If you feel your anxiety getting the best of you, take a break and address it again later.
Practicing self-care is more important than ever. Try to eat well, exercise regularly, meditate, go outside, get enough rest, chat to friends on the phone or via Skype and do other activities that make you feel good.
5. Check in with your children regularly
Dinnertime is the perfect occasion to check in with your kids. Ask them how they’re feeling and whether they have any questions or concerns. Allow them to express their worries and offer plenty of reassurance. Remind them that they’re unlikely to get sick and let them call family members they might be concerned about.
6. Don’t forget to have fun
Blast upbeat music and have a dance party. Tell jokes. Play charades. Watch a silly movie. These distractions are not only good for your kids, they’re good for your outlook and wellbeing too.
- Want to know more? Read Coronavirus and your family: what you need to know and How to set up a daily schedule during COVID-19.