Talking to kids about the COVID-19 crisis

Children are at home. Many parents are working from home. Activities are canceled. This means our kids are not playing with their friends. Your child is probably wondering why and there are ways to tell them.

Talking to children
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“Nowadays, kids have more opportunities to be exposed to harmful topics. Social media, the internet and chat groups make it easier for them to get information, some of which hasn’t been verified,” said Pediatrician Adam Weis. “It’s important that parents know the facts so they can translate that information into a developmentally appropriate and simplified explanation for their kids.”

How much is too much news?

Child watching TV

Children, especially those of preschool and elementary school age, should not be watching and hearing news about the virus. This can scare them and can cause negative consequences. Parents, we know you want to keep updated, but you should also limit your own intake because so much “bad” news can also be emotionally exhausting.

If you’re panicking about the situation, think about how your child will react to your anxiety and fear. So, try not to let your children see you panic.

Talking to your child

What children need from their parents is clarity and reassurance. You can say words like “virus,” but don’t forget to talk to them about their immune system and what that does to fight off viruses. Talk to them in a way they’ll understand: “Viruses are the bad guys and our bodies have lots of superheroes inside to fight the bad guys. People who are really old have fewer superheroes inside and they need all of us to protect them.”

Washing hands

It’s also important for kids to know what they can do on their own to protect themselves, like practice good hygiene and social distancing.

Talking to a four-year-old is different from talking to a fourth-grader, but there are also differences in children of the same age. Take cues from your children and respond accordingly. 

Some children might see school cancellations as a vacation; some may feel more comfortable if they get more updates on the virus and others might do better with less. Siblings can also be different, so the approach must be catered to the child. 

Children who feel particularly stressed and anxious need to be told that there are “kid worries” and “grown-up worries.” Let them know a child’s job is to wash their hands and it’s the adults to keep them safe.

Above all, maintaining the calm in the chaos will be important for every family. Children need to know that their parents have their backs, even when there is uncertainty.

Finding the good in any situation can brighten everyone’s day. Take a few minutes each evening to let everyone name their best memory of the day with the family or ask everyone to say something they’re thankful for.