9 Tips for Talking to Kids about COVID-19
Last updated: April 10, 2020, at 7:44 a.m. PT
Originally published: April 10, 2020, at 7:27 a.m. PT
It’s a time of great uncertainty and unprecedented change for families across the world. Even as an adult, it’s difficult to truly wrap your head around the COVID-19 outbreak, so how is it impacting kids? And how should you approach discussing it with them?
Tips for Talking to Kids about COVID-19
- Stay calm, positive, and reassuring.
Children look to adults as examples for how to react to stressful events, so parents should be reassuring about the actions health and school officials are taking to make sure we stay healthy, while still providing factual, age appropriate information about the seriousness of disease risk and instruction about how to avoid the spread of disease. It’s also a good idea to check back in with them on a regular basis as the situation evolves.
- Be available.
Actively make time to listen and talk to your children about their thoughts and fears, even if they don’t explicitly express concern. In addition to any family discussions you have, consider having a separate discussion with young children in order to use language they can comprehend and directly address specific fears that arise. You can also support them by giving them plenty of affection!
- Avoid blaming and language that lead to stigmas.
It’s easy to look for someone to blame when fear or stress is involved, but try to stick to the facts, and avoid putting blame on any single group of people for the virus.
- Monitor television and social media intake.
As you stay up to date on the latest news developments, try to be mindful of children’s exposure to television or social media that might promote fear or spread inaccurate information. Check in regularly with your children about what they have viewed on the internet and clarify any misinformation.
- Keep a consistent schedule.
In times of uncertainty, some form or routine or structure can help soothe kid’s anxiety. You can provide this structure by maintaining bedtimes, meals, and exercise.
- Find ways to keep kids in touch with people.
Seek support and continued connection with your kid’s friends and family members by helping them talk to them through phone, text, email, or social media. Schools may have additional ways to stay in contact with educators and classmates.
- Provide honest and accurate information.
If you don’t provide factual information to them, children often imagine situations that are much worse than reality. We recommend that you identify a few trusted sources of health information, like this site from the CDC, to get reliable information to share with your kids. Try to tailor the way you relate this information to make sure it’s age and developmentally appropriate.
- Teach everyday actions to reduce the spread of germs.
Help kids engage with proper hygiene and health promoting behavior by finding fun, creative ways to share this information, such as creating drawings to remember routines or singing songs to teach them the correct hand-washing times. It also helps to provide positive reinforcement when you seem them display hygienic, health promoting behaviors!
- Remember to have fun.
Make time to do things at home as a family that have provided some sort of comfort during stressful situations in the past, like playing games, reading, listening to music, or making crafts.
This is not an easy time – especially for parents. Try to remember that feelings like loneliness, boredom, fear, and anxiety are normal reactions to a stressful situation like. And most importantly, remember that this quarantine is only temporary. Hang in there!
- Comprehensive list of COVID-19 information for seniors, youth, and families
- Tips for talking with children about COVID-19 from the CDC
- Helping Children and Teens Cope with Anxiety About COVID-19 from Seattle Children's
- A Comic Exploring The New Coronavirus from NPR
- Talking to your children about school closures from The Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction in Washington State