News about the coronavirus as well as its effect upon people’s daily lives is ever present.
Many parents are wondering how to discuss the epidemic with their children in ways that will be informative but also reassuring and not make kids more worried than they already may be.
What follows is some advice that we hope will be helpful.
- Don’t be afraid to discuss the coronavirus. Children will sense the fear behind the silence. Not talking about something can actually make kids worry more. Seek to be calm and reassuring during your talks. Children will react to both what you say and how you say it. Your goal is to help your children feel informed and get fact-based information that is likely more reassuring that what they may be hearing from news shows or from overhearing what others talking about.
- Make your message developmentally appropriate. Don’t volunteer too much information, as this may be overwhelming. Simply try to answer your child’s questions. Invite your child to tell you anything they have heard about the coronavirus and how they feel. Be prepared to answer (but not necessarily prompt) questions. Do your best to answer honestly, clearly and concisely. It is OK if you do not have all the answers. It is most important that your child knows you are available to them.
- Be reassuring to the child. Children tend to be egocentric, so they may worry that they or people they love may catch the virus. It will be helpul to explain how rare the virus is (the flu is more common, for example) and that the vast majority of people, kids especially, seem to have mild symptoms if they become infected.
- Focus on what you are doing to stay safe. An important way to reassure kids is to emphasize the precautions you are taking. Kids feel empowered when they know what they can do to help themselves. So, remind them about washing their hands, social distancing, etc.
- Keep talking and listening to your children. Tell your kids that you will continue to keep them updated as you learn more. Let them know that the lines of communication will remain open and they can approach you anytime.
- Manage your own anxiety. When you are feeling most anxious is not the time to talk with your kids about what is happening with the coronavirus. The more you are able to manage your own anxiety, the better it will be for your children (not to mention the positive effect it will have on to your immune system).
- Become your child’s best teacher. Most schools recommend 1 hour reading and 1 hour math can be sufficient for grade school kids. Khan Academy on line has lots of free resources. Use your time with them to teach daily skills. For example, you can talk about units of measure as your child helps you prepare meals. Cut a sandwich into 4s and talk about division, percentages, or even nutritional requirements being met.