Talking with Your Children About COVID-19
If you’re dealing with kids who are home from school due to the new coronavirus, a lot of questions are probably popping up. Understandably, your kids are concerned about the outbreak and they’ll look to you for answers. Here are some things you can do to that’ll make those conversations easier:
- Provide just enough information about COVID-19. Try to strike a balance between answering their questions well enough without fueling any anxiety they may have. A lot of this will depend on the age of your child. Children have vivid imaginations and if you don’t talk enough or at all, they can create worse scenarios in their minds. Be honest, accurate and provide information that’s appropriate for their age and level of development.
- Find out what your child already knows. For older children, ask them what they’ve heard from other kids at school. Ask your younger children if they’ve heard about the new sickness that’s going around. This will help you learn how much they know and if the information they have is correct. If your child isn’t asking questions or doesn’t seem interested, that’s okay.
- Remain calm and reassuring. Your child will react both to what you say and how you say it. They’ll also pick up on your demeanor during the conversations you have with others, so try to remain calm.
- Avoid language that might blame others and lead to stigma. Viruses can make anyone sick, regardless of their race or ethnicity. Avoid making assumptions about who might have COVID-19.
- Focus on what you’re doing to stay safe. A great way to reassure your kids is to remind them of all the safety precautions you’re taking. Let them know that washing their hands frequently for 20 seconds, or for the amount of time it takes to sing Happy Birthday twice, is one of the best ways to stay safe. Explain that by staying at home, they’re helping reduce the spread of the virus.
- Limit exposure to news and social media. Watch the news when the kids are asleep or early in the morning when your kids are occupied.
- Keep talking. Let them know that, even if you don’t have all the answers right now, you’ll let them know as soon as you do. Assure them that you’ll be available to talk whenever they need to.
What Are Some of the Questions Kids May Ask About COVID-19?
When your kids ask questions, try to keep your answers simple and remind them that health and school officials are working hard to keep everyone safe and healthy. Here are a few questions you may be asked and some simple, kid-friendly answers that won’t overwhelm them:
- What’s COVID-19? COVID-19 is the short name for “coronavirus disease 2019.” It’s a new virus that doctors and scientists are still learning about. This new virus has made a lot of people sick, but doctors and scientists think that most people will be okay, especially kids. Some people might get pretty sick.
- How do you get COVID-19? The virus spreads like the flu, or a cold or cough. If a person who has COVID-19 coughs or sneezes, the germs come out of their body and into the air. Those germs can travel up to six feet, so that’s why it’s important to stand six feet from people, other than your immediate family. A healthy person can also touch something that a sick person coughed or sneezed on, which is why it’s so important to wash your hands a lot. This keeps the germs out of your body.
- What can I do so that I won’t get COVID-19? You can practice healthy habits at home to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.
- If you cough or sneeze, do it into your elbow. If you cough or sneeze into a tissue, throw it in the trash right away.
- Keep your hands out of your mouth, nose and eyes. This will help keep germs out of your body.
- Wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds (show them the proper way), rinse then dry. You can sing the Happy Birthday song twice.
- Keep things clean. (Have them help you clean the things in the house that get touched the most).
- If you feel sick, stay inside. Just like you don’t want to get germs from other people who are sick, they don’t want to get your germs either.
- What happens if you get sick with COVID-19? COVID-19 affects people differently. Some people get a cough, fever or have a hard time taking breaths. Most people who get COVID-19 haven’t gotten very sick. Only a small group of people who get it have had more serious problems. From what doctors have seen, most children don’t seem to get very sick. While a lot of adults do get sick, most of them get better.
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What Can I Do to Help Manage Their Anxiety and Keep Them Busy?
With most schools closed and many people working remotely from home, it can be difficult to keep your kids occupied. Here are some things you can do to help calm their fears, manage stress and keep things running smoothly:
- Maintain routines. Sticking to your regular schedule is key. Kids should get up, eat, and go to bed at their normal times. Consistency and structure are calming to kids, which helps reassure them in times of stress.
- Be creative with new activities. Introduce new activities to your routine, like board games or doing a puzzle. Let them pick their favorite meal, then enlist their help in the kitchen. Plant a garden. Have them create an illustrated storybook to share with their grandparents.
- Stay in touch virtually. Just because they can’t see their relatives or play with their friends in person doesn’t mean they can’t stay in touch. Set up virtual chats and playdates on FaceTime or Zoom.
- Exercise. This is a big one. Stay active. Get outside. Go on family walks or bike rides. Play outside in the yard. Teach them yoga. Exercising clears the mind and improves the mood for everybody.
- Keep it positive. For many kids, being home from school is a dream come true. Let them know you’re glad that they’re excited and use that good energy as a springboard to help them feel calm and happy. Let them know you’re glad to be able to spend so much time with them.
More Questions about COVID-19 and Your Family?
If you’d like more information about COVID-19 and protecting your family, read our blog How Can I Help Protect My Family From COVID-19.
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