Coronavirus + Kids: How To Talk About The Pandemic

News of the Coronavirus is everywhere. It’s the forefront topic of conversation and for good reason. Parents are working from home and children are now practicing distanced learning from home for the rest of the school year. It’s virtually impossible to escape news of the virus. Parents or guardians may be wondering how to bring up the illness without creating more worry. As trusted adults in our children’s lives, we can help them make sense of what’s going on in the world around them and set the tone for how they perceive the global pandemic. 

Don’t Be Afraid to Approach The Virus

By now, kids know something is going on. They’re likely staying home more, school is canceled until the end of the year, and nearly everyone is wearing masks in public… not exactly typical behavior. Plus, if their parent/parents were working in an office, there’s a good chance they’re working remotely now, so even if we haven’t broached the topic, our kids know something is up. In fact, skirting the issue can actually create more anxiety in kids, and in all reality, they’re probably already hearing about the virus from another source. So take the opportunity to open up a dialogue with your child, where you can set the tone and filter the information they’re receiving. 

Talk in a Calm, Reassuring Tone

Deliver truthful, age-appropriate information in a calm, matter-of-fact tone. Kids can read body language from a young age, so take a few calming breaths and try not to seem upset. After your initial conversation, make sure you’re available to help answer any questions or assuage any concerns. Remember that our children’s routines are askew, too, and their uncertainties may be different than ours, but still valid. It’s ok if you don’t have an answer to questions. Older children may wonder what is going to happen with high school graduation or summer camps. We may not have those answers yet, but try to reassure your child that as soon as you know more information, you’ll share. An open dialogue is important for any conversation, be it a global pandemic or any other challenge your child may face in the future. This is a perfect opportunity to start building an open, trusting relationship now.

Try to Monitor What They’re Seeing or Hearing

Turn off the news every once in a while and give everyone a little reprieve. Let’s be totally honest, the news coverage is alarming even to adults, but it can be downright panic-inducing to our children. Maybe save the conversations about the rising death toll for after the kiddos have gone to bed, and focus on the positive experiences we’re having: more time at home as a family, movie nights, forts, and flexible learning opportunities.

Share With Them What They Can Do

Just like adults, children crave understanding for what they can do to keep themselves and their family safe. Explain how germs work, how the virus is transferred, and explain why hand-washing is so important. YouTube has a few videos that show how germs work, and there are at-home experiments utilizing spices and soap that can demonstrate this point as well too. Remind them of good health hygiene like coughing or sneezing into their elbow, consistently washing their hands, and using tissues to wipe any runny noses. Look for ways to help in your community, nationally or globally. 

Keep Talking

A conversation about something like a global pandemic is not necessarily a “one and done” thing. Ask your children how they’re feeling, or if they’ve heard anything from a different source that is concerning to them. Take time to answer their questions and discuss any concerns they may have, but follow their lead. They may not have many questions, and that’s ok too.

While it may be overwhelming to approach a big topic like this with your children, try to look at this as an opportunity to create an open dialogue. We’re all spending a lot of time together these days, and learning how to effectively communicate with your children is a skill we can all brush up on. 

What tips do you have for helping children understand the Coronavirus? Share your thoughts!

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Courtney Daybell

Courtney Daybell is a wife and has three kids, three years old and under. After a hiatus, she is excited to be writing again, and enjoys sharing some of Salt Lake’s finer things with 24SLC readers. She enjoys Diet Coke, true crime podcasts and is on a quest for the perfect chocolate chip cookie.

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