Suggestions for Talking with Children About the Coronavirus
As schools are closing, kids being at home 24/7, many jobs are in jeopardy and countless people working from home to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. Parents are struggling to keep their children healthy, happy and occupied. Here are some suggestions to parents and caregivers for talking with children about the coronavirus and what’s going on.
- Create a place where the children feel safe and comfortable. Be calming and reassuring. Remember that children will react to both what you say and how you say it.
- Don’t be afraid to discuss the coronavirus. Most children have already heard about the virus, seen masks and probably know this is why schools closed and everyone is home. Ask them what they know about the virus and keep your responses simple and clear. Do not overwhelm them with information and details of all that’s going on. If they want more information they will ask. Reassure them that this will end, we just don’t know when yet.
And remind them that in taking care of ourselves and by staying at home and isolating, we are taking care of others in preventing the spread of the virus.
- In talking with children, offer simple and brief responses. Give the children information that is truthful and appropriate for their age and development. If there are questions a child asks to which you do not know the answer, be honest and say that that you do not know.
- Avoid euphemisms such as “it’s just the flu,” “you don’t need to worry about that,” “cheer up,” or “this isn’t something that you should be concerned about.” Don’t minimize your children’s fears or anxieties. Listen to them and respect them but don’t belittle them. Your children’s thoughts and feelings are valid, they are real and need to be heard and recognized.
- Make yourself available to listen and talk. Be sure children know they can come to you and talk when they have questions, feel sad, anxious, angry, overwhelmed or whatever and you will be there for them. You might have a scheduled check-in time when everyone sits down together, asks questions and shares what’s going on with them. As adults, you can act as a role model in sharing your feelings but do not use this as a therapy session for yourself.
- Keep routines in place so that kids know have a framework for the day. Consistency and structure are calming influences during times of stress. Kids benefit from knowing what’s going to happen when. It may be helpful to have a daily schedule that will let kids when studies, activities or meals are going to happen.
- Be creative in building activities so that everyone can get some exercise. Incorporate new activities like doing a puzzle or having a family game evening or baking favorite recipes together. Check out our Arts Castle Studio on Facebook at The Arts Castle where we have art activities, virtual tours, suggestions for family activities, clips and links that make you laugh and more. Also, The Arts Castle will be offering free online classes this spring for your kids and you!
- Recognize that repeated questions that children ask time and again are not so much for factual information as they are for reassurance that you are there and will tell them what they need to know and answer their questions.
- This is a great opportunity to teach kids the importance of good personal hygiene and ways to reduce the spread of germs that will help them in reducing the spread of germs now and later on.
- Explain to children that while everything seems turned upside down there are things they can count on like your being there for them, a special time of day when they play a game, watch a special video (Betty White reading When Harry the Dog Got Dirty) or doing art or helping to make a favorite snack.
- Pay attention to what children see or hear on television, radio, or online. Protect children from watching too much tv or absorbing too much info on their computers or laptops. WE’RE ALL OVERWHELMED BY THE MEDIA COVERAGE AND NEED TO TURN OFF, TUNE OUT FROM IT AND FIND OTHER AVENUES TO FOCUS OUR MINDS AND TIME.