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Talking to Children About COVID-19

Talking to Children

What a challenging event we’ve experienced so far this year.  It’s difficult to share with kids not only what is happening, but what still might happen, mostly because we’ve never been through this before.  As you navigate your own thoughts and feelings on the days ahead, here are some tips to help with the conversations you have with your children.

Let Them Lead  

If your child has been paying attention to the discussions of the adults in the room or of the things they’ve inevitably picked up throughout the year, they may start asking about coronavirus. The best way to start the conversation is to let them ask their own questions so that you can answer as best as possible.  You know your child best and how much they can understand.

Questions Kids Ask

  1. “What is the coronavirus?” The coronavirus is a sickness that is kind of like the flu, but it spreads quickly.  Everyone is working very hard to help people stay well.  Older people and people who are frequently sick or have disabilities can get really sick and this is why we have to be careful to not spread the virus. This virus causes a new sickness and doctors are working hard to study all about it to learn what we can do to make it stop.
  2. “Why do we have to stay home?” We need to stay home so the virus doesn’t spread faster.  If it spreads, too many people will have to go to the doctor all at once and the sick people won’t be able to get the care they need to feel better.
  3. “Will I get the coronavirus?”  We hope not. And, I’ve heard that if kids do get it, they only get a little bit sick. Remember when you had the flu?  Mommy and daddy took care of you and gave you medicine, and you felt better, right?  Just remember that our family is doing everything we can to not get sick. 

Recognize Signs of Anxiety

With new information rolling out daily, this is not a “one and done” situation. Keep the conversation going with your child and don’t allow it to overshadow the day. You may notice that your child gets cranky and acts out when they feel anxious. This may be due to the fact that they are frustrated that they don’t have the words to express how they’re feeling. Let them know that it’s okay to feel this way and strive to keep a positive home environment by using positive and distracting relief like arts and crafts, board games, video games, reading books, creating a puppet show, watching a movie together, and trying new kid-friendly recipes. FaceTime or Skype the grandparents and good friends who they might be concerned about. Otherwise, try to stick to normal routines as much as possible. Schedule regular mealtimes and bedtimes because these are essential to your child’s physical and mental well-being.

Follow Mr. Rogers’ Advice and “Look for the Helpers”

Fred Rogers of Mister Rogers Neighborhood on PBS often told this story about when he was a boy and witnessed things that frightened him on the news: “My mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’ To this day, especially in times of disaster, I remember my mother’s words, and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers — so many caring people in this world.” Point to the nurses, doctors and medical professionals who are working so hard to help those in need. Point to the people working at the grocery stores to stock the shelves with the things that people require. Look for examples of “helpers” within your own community and discuss them with your child. Encourage your own child to be a helper and think of ways your family can help others – for example, you could make cards for seniors at your local nursing home who might not be able to accept visitors or for the doctors and nurses at your local hospital as your way of saying ‘thank you for all you do.’

Your children will be reassured by your approach to their questions.  Remember to stay calm!  If you don’t know how to answer a particular question, be honest with your child and let them know that everyone is working together to answer these hard questions and just take one day at a time. 

From all of us here at Kids ‘R’ Kids Learning Academies, our hopes and prayers are with your family, your friends and loved ones, and your communities. Stay well!

For additional tips for talking about Coronavirus with your child, please visit the following links:

National Association of School Psychologists

Center for Disease Control and Prevention