How to Talk to Kids About Coronavirus
As a parent, your first instinct is probably to protect your children from worrying news whenever possible. But with schools shuttered across the country, people wearing scary (to children, at least) face masks, and day-to-day activities limited in many places, it’s a good idea to talk to your kids about what’s going on.
Be open to discussing it
No matter how much you’d like to shield them, even small kids are probably aware that something out of the ordinary is happening. For them, the uncertainty of not knowing what’s going on may cause more anxiety than a calm, reassuring explanation of the situation. Take your cues from your child and let the discussion happen naturally.
Use age-appropriate explanations
Don’t overwhelm your child with too much information. Explain what’s going on in the simplest and most reassuring terms possible.
Be honest—but don’t overshare
There are a lot of scary stories circulating, and your child may have heard some of them. Kids also have robust imaginations and may create imaginary scenarios that are much worse than reality. But don’t overshare. Too much information can create even more anxiety.
Explain what kind of precautions your family is taking and why
If you haven’t already explained what germs are, do so in an age-appropriate way. Talk about what you’re doing to keep from spreading (or catching) germs, such as handwashing, coughing into your sleeve, keeping your distance from others, etc.
Explain what happens if you do catch it
One of a child’s biggest fears is that he or she may lose a parent. Children need assurance that they—and even more importantly, you—are going to be OK. Explain that most people who catch the virus don’t get very sick, especially children, and that the reason we’re taking all these precautions is to keep people who are older or who are already sick from catching it.
Most of all, make yourself available. Pay attention to your child’s state of mind and be open to answering their questions or calming their fears whenever they arise.