The Coronavirus Disease of 2019 or COVID-19 has impacted and changed the lives of families all over the United States. You see it all over social media such as Facebook or find yourself hearing discussions of it while you are getting the essentials at the grocery store. As adults, it can be overwhelming or anxiety-inducing to hear the news on a constant basis. As parents, it can be a challenge to not only process the information for yourself, but also figure out how to talk about it with your children.
Kids are very perceptive, and they may see or hear more than we think they do. It is important to allow them the space to talk about any fears, anxieties or even ask questions during this time. Families have been put into a difficult situation in which uncertain topics have to be talked about even to young children. As you are engaging in conversations with your children, the following tips and resources may be helpful in guiding those conversations.
- Don’t be afraid to discuss the coronavirus
Although it can be uncomfortable to discuss a topic you may not know much about, it is important to talk to your children about it. It may be helpful to do some research from sources such as the CDC to help you become knowledgeable.
- Be developmentally appropriate
You’re ready to talk to your kids about the coronavirus and now you wonder…. how exactly do I do it? When talking to your kids it is important to keep in mind their age and their ability to understand the information you share. For younger children, it may be helpful to have them lead the discussion with questions and provide simple responses. For your teenagers, it may still be helpful to have them lead the discussion, but offer more details.
- Be reassuring
These discussions are definitely not easy, and like you, your child may be experiencing fear or anxiety. As you have these conversations, share with your children the steps you are taking to keep them safe. This may include discussing handwashing and healthy habits. Letting them know that there are people such as doctors who are working hard to help those that are sick, also may be helpful.
- Emphasize what your family can do
As you talk with your children, discuss the steps you can take to be healthy and support others during this difficult time. Sharing what can be done may empower your children to feel like they also can be included in the family plan. Some of the activities that can be reviewed as a family are appropriate handwashing, engaging in healthy activities such as exercise, relaxation and reaching out to family members they may not be able to see in person.
- Keep communication open
As we get more information about the coronavirus and it continues to be present in our daily lives, it is important to remind your children that they can continue to ask questions about it. Letting them know that as more information becomes available, you will share what is necessary for them to know.
The following resources may also be helpful:
Talking to Your Kids About the Coronavirus: https://childmind.org/article/talking-to-kids-about-the-coronavirus/
How to Talk to Your Kids About the Coronavirus: https://www.pbs.org/parents/thrive/how-to-talk-to-your-kids-about-coronavirus
Caring For Each Other: https://www.sesamestreet.org/caring
This 4-minute video for child education about the coronavirus: https://www.brainpop.com/health/diseasesinjuriesandconditions/coronavirus/
Educational booklet for kids in both English and Spanish:
Authors: Beverly Bernal, M.A., Pre-Doctoral Psychology Intern, and Stephanie Simmons, PsyD, Clinical Psychologist