How to Talk to Kids About Coronavirus
Parents, caregivers and other trusted adults can help kids makes sense of what they are hearing about the coronavirus (COVID-19). Here is some advice on how to talk to kids about COVID-19:
- Be intentional in what you share with kids. Make sure your information is from a trusted source. Use words they can understand but also limit the amount of information you share with them. Limit their exposure to news to reduce anxiety.
- Reassure them. Let them know that the majority of people who do get sick recover from this disease. Have a discussion about what you are doing or what can do to keep each other safe and about why you are staying home.
- Stick to a routine as much as possible. School provides routine for students (and parents), so if possible, provide structure for them while they are home. Build in time to destress and have fun. Try to limit screen time as well.
- Model good practices such as healthy eating, exercise, and coping strategies so your child can see that you are caring for yourself and them. Teach them new habits to help keep them safe and healthy.
- Validate their feelings. What they are feeling is perfectly acceptable, and they are grieving for what they are missing out on as well. Remind your child that this is temporary (although it often doesn’t feel that way) and it will pass. Give them something that they can feel in control of while the rest of their life feels out of control (e.g., deciding what to eat at a meal, what activity to do, or what movie or game to engage in).
- Be calm and reassuring. Kids pick up cues from your tone of voice and nonverbal signals.
Here are some helpful things you can say when discussing COVID-19 with your kids:
- “I hear what you are saying/telling me.”
- “How are you feeling?”
- “I know this is hard for you. How can I help you?”
- “I’m here for you.”
- “Let’s come up with a plan that helps you.”
- “We’ll get through this together.”
If, after doing all of this, you notice signs of anxiety or changes in behavior, here are some activities to help manage emotions:
- Listen or create music
- Draw or journal
- Enjoy the outdoors (staying six feet apart from others)
- Do a grounding exercise
- Cook or bake something new
- Practice deep breathing or visualization
- Meditate or practice mindfulness
- Set a goal for the day to see if you can accomplish it
- Create an obstacle course
- Try a science experiment using materials from your home
- Create a time capsule or a scrapbook of positive memories or activities you enjoy together
- Tell jokes
- Interview a family member and share what you learned
- Go on a scavenger hunt in your home
- Create a new tradition
- Put on a play or other performance and record it
- Go on a virtual trip (many museums and zoos are offering virtual tours)