Talking to Kids About the Coronavirus

Talking to Kids About the Coronavirus

 

Kids worry more when they're kept in the dark


News of the coronavirus COVID-19 is everywhere. Many parents are wondering how to bring up the pandemic in a way that will be reassuring and not make kids more worried than they already may be. Here is some advice from the experts at the Child Mind Institute.

  • Don’t be afraid to discuss the coronavirus. 

Most children will have already heard about the virus or seen people wearing face masks, so parents shouldn’t avoid talking about it. Not talking about something can actually make kids worry more. Look at the conversation as an opportunity to convey the facts and set the emotional tone. 

  • Take your cues from your child.

Invite your child to tell you anything they may have heard about the coronavirus and how they feel. Give them ample opportunity to ask questions. You want to be prepared to answer (but not prompt) questions. Your goal is to avoid encouraging frightening fantasies.

  • Deal with your own anxiety. 

When you’re feeling most anxious or panicked, that isn’t the time to talk to your kids about what’s happening with the coronavirus. If you notice that you are feeling anxious, take some time to calm down before trying to have a conversation or answer your child’s questions.

  • Be reassuring. 

Hearing about the coronavirus on the news may be enough to make them seriously worry that they’ll catch it. It’s helpful to reassure your child about how rare the coronavirus actually is (the flu is much more common) and that kids actually seem to have milder symptoms.

  • Focus on what you’re doing to stay safe. 

An important way to reassure kids is to emphasize the safety precautions that you are taking. We know that the coronavirus is transmitted mostly by coughing and touching surfaces. The CDC recommends thoroughly washing your hands as the primary means of staying healthy. So remind kids that they are taking care of themselves by washing their hands with soap and water for 20 seconds (or the length of two “Happy Birthday” songs) when they come in from outside, before they eat, and after blowing their nose, coughing, sneezing or using the bathroom.