Children thrive on having their day structured and routine. It helps them feel safe and protected. But when something like coronavirus and COVID-19 comes along, their lives are uprooted. No more playing with friends down the street, or down the hall. And school…well that’s a whole new world, isn’t it!
It’s no wonder that children worry about themselves, their family, and friends getting sick with COVID-19. So, how can parents help their children make sense of what they hear about COVID-19? How can parents talk to their children in a way that is honest yet minimizes anxiety and fear?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has some tips for parents to help them have conversations with their kids about COVID-19:
Stay calm and reassuring. Children react to what and how you say it. That includes what you say to them, as well as listening to conversations you have with other adults.
Be available to listen and to talk. Reassure children that they can come to you with any questions they have, even if that means asking the same questions many times.
Avoid language that might blame others. Tell them that viruses can make anyone sick, regardless of a person’s race or ethnicity.
Pay attention to what they see or hear on television, radio or online. Limit the amount of screen time focused on COVID-19 to help reduce anxiety from taking in too much information. Also, tell them that stories about COVID-19 on social media may not be true and may be based on rumors.
Be honest and accurate. Keep information and answers to their questions short. For example, tell them that you, their parents, along with their teachers, doctors and scientists are working hard to keep everyone safe and healthy. The virus makes a lot of people sick, but most people will be OK, especially kids.
Teach children everyday actions to reduce the spread of germs. This includes actions such as proper handwashing and how to safely cough or sneeze.