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How to Talk to Your Children about Coronavirus

How to Talk to Your Children about Coronavirus

Resources for Families

If you keep checking your phone for the latest coronavirus updates, chances are your kids have noticed. Be ready to answer your child’s questions about coronavirus. If they don't seem interested or don't ask a lot of questions, that's OK too. Just follow their lead.

Choose the Right Time to Talk

Avoid distractions. Is there a time each day when you check in with your child and ask how their day is going? Maybe it's on the way to sports practice or after childcare pickup. If it's a time when you and your child can focus, use it to talk about coronavirus.  

Find Out What Your Child Already Knows

Ask questions geared to your child's age level. This gives you a chance to learn how much kids know—and to find out if they're hearing the wrong information.

  1. For older kids, you might ask, "Are people in school talking about coronavirus? What are they saying?"
  2. For younger children, you could say, "Have you heard grownups talking about a new sickness that's going around?”

Let Your Child Guide the Conversation 

Be prepared for kids to ask questions, but don't offer information before they ask. It's better to have a series of shorter talks over time than to overwhelm your child with information.

Offer Comfort—and Honesty

Focus on helping your child feel safe, but be truthful. Don't offer more detail than your child is interested in. If your child asks about something and you don't know the answer, say so. Use the question as a chance to find out together. Check the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website for up-to-date, reliable information about coronavirus. That way, you have the facts and kids don't see headlines about deaths and other scary information.

Speak Calmly and Reassuringly

Explain that most people who get sick feel like they have a cold or the flu. Kids pick up on it when parents worry. So when you talk about coronavirus and the news, use a calm voice and try not to seem upset.

Give Kids Space to Share Their Fears

It's natural for kids to worry, "Could I be next? Could that happen to me?" Let your child know that kids don't seem to get as sick as adults. Let them know they can always come to you for answers or to talk about what scares them. 

Help Kids Feel in Control

  1. Give your child specific things they can do to feel in control. Teach kids that getting lots of sleep and washing their hands well and often can help them stay strong and well. Explain that regular hand washing also helps stop viruses from spreading to others. Be a good role model and let your kids see you washing your hands often!
  2. Talk about all the things that are happening to keep people safe and healthy. Young kids might be reassured to know that hospitals and doctors are prepared to treat people who get sick. Older kids might be comforted to know that scientists are working to develop a vaccine. These talks also prepare kids for changes in their normal routine if schools or childcare centers close in the future.
  3. Put news stories in context. If they ask, explain that death from the virus is still rare, despite what they might hear. Watch the news with your kids so you can filter what they hear.
  4. Kids and teens often worry more about family and friends than themselves. For example, if kids hear that older people are more likely to be seriously ill, they might worry about their grandparents. Letting them call or Skype with older relatives can help them feel reassured about loved ones.
  5. Let your kids know that it's normal to feel stressed out at times. Everyone does. Recognizing these feelings and knowing that stressful times pass and life gets back to normal can help children build resilience.

 Handling Bullying or Uncaring Behaviors

Although the spread of coronavirus appears to have started in China, it is important to remember that coronavirus infection is not connected to any race, ethnicity, or nationality.  Misinformation about coronavirus can create fear and hostility that harms people and makes it harder to keep everyone healthy. 

 You can start by sharing facts we know about the virus and ask students the following:

  1. Can you think of a time when you were unfairly blamed for something? How did that make you feel?
  2. What are some ways we can make sure everyone feels safe and welcome in our classroom?
  3. What are some ways we can make sure our class is as healthy as possible?
  4. What would be a good response if you see someone make an uncaring comment toward another student

 Keep the Conversation Going

Keep checking in with your child. Use talking about coronavirus as a way to help kids learn about their bodies, like how the immune system fights off disease.

Talk about current events with your kids often. It's important to help them think through stories they hear about. Ask questions: What do you think about these events? How do you think these things happen? Such questions also encourage conversation about non-news topics.

Adapted from: kidshealth.org