How to talk to your child about coronavirus
Updated: Apr 9
You’re probably fielding a LOT of questions from your little inquirers about the Coronavirus pandemic right about now. We’ve thought about grief talks, empathy talks, sex talks, cultural intelligence. But we hadn’t anticipated bringing them into this part of the world so soon - the scary, uncertain, overwhelming part. So how do we tell them why they’re out of school, why they can’t play with their friends, why Mommy needs a glass of wine a little earlier than usual, without scaring them or lying to them?
Here are some tips on navigating such an unprecedented conversation with your young child.
First, remain calm. We know that children look to the adults around them to determine how to react. Start by telling them there are a lot of powers working very hard to keep them safe and they will be taken care of. Remind them that you are there to keep them healthy and that they are OK. Ask them how they’re feeling and try to reframe any stressful thoughts they have.
Be honest. Tell them that COIVD-19 is spread through coughs and sneezes and close contact with sick people or contaminated surfaces. Tell them that’s why you’re staying home, so they shouldn’t worry about getting sick, because your home is healthy.
Be there. Right now, this is a tough one. You’re trying to cope with your own uncertainty and stress while working, entertaining, teaching, cleaning, feeding - it’s too much to ask of you and you’re a hero for making it this far. Whenever you’re doing one of those things, multitask by asking your child how they’re doing. Let them know you’re not just there for them physically, but emotionally. They need to know they can come to you with their concerns.
Discuss new rules and practices. Model new hygiene routines and safety precautions for them often and be honest about why you’re doing it. Tell them sometimes, sicknesses like the flu or colds go around. Sometimes, it’s easier to get them and while they would be OK if they did get sick, it’s better for everyone if they don’t. So, this is just a time to be extra careful.
Overall, be reassuring like you always are! It may seem like an abnormal conversation, but you do already possess all of the skills needed to have it. Let them talk as much as they need to. You know your child best and you know what they need to hear.
For more information, visit the CDC’s resource page on symptoms, preparedness, healthcare and further updates on COVID-19.