While Coronavirus, which causes COVID-19, has been in the news for months, it’s a topic which has obviously ramped up in the past week. It will continue to be a topic of conversation for a long time to come, is my guess. Maybe you talk regularly with your kids about Coronavirus, or maybe they’re on spring break and you’re waiting until they were supposed to go back to school to have a talk with your kids about COVID-19. Maybe you’re somewhere in the middle and you’ve already had at least one conversation with your kids about why they’re home from school. Because we think it’s important to keep addressing their concerns and answering their questions at an age appropriate level, we’ve compiled these helpful tips.
Find Out What Your Child Already Knows
Ask questions. “What do you understand about why you’re not in school right now?”
Find out what they know and if they have accurate information.
Follow your child’s lead. Some kids may want to spend time talking. Others won’t. If yours don’t seem interested or don’t ask a lot of questions, that’s ok.
Offer Comfort — and Honesty
Children are excellent at reading body language and will pick up on your unspoken communication as much as your words. Be aware of whether you are calm and reassuring in your tone and check the state of tension in your body.
Keep details to a minimum unless they ask.
It’s natural for kids to worry and telling them “Don’t worry” or “Don’t cry” isn’t that helpful. Instead use language such as, “It sounds like you’re feeling worried. That’s normal. We are doing everything we can to keep you and our loved ones safe”
Help them name their feelings. Acknowledge that their feelings are valid. Offer reassurance.
Help Kids Feel in Control
Give your child specific things they can do to feel in control.
- get lots of sleep
- eat a healthful diet
- wash their hands
- pray for others, or send love out loud in accordance with your beliefs
- reach out to loved ones as much as they can
When you talk to your kids about COVID-19, highlight all the things that are happening to keep people safe and healthy.
Talk about the ways people are helping one another. Brainstorm ideas that you can do too.
Be present and available as much as possible to allow the conversation to continue.
Kids might want extra attention. That’s normal. Give it to them as much as you can.
Give lots of snugs and affection. You really can’t do this too much.
Tell them how much you love them and let them know you’re thankful they are in your life.
Keep Blame Out of the Conversations When You Talk to Your Kids about COVID-19
Viruses can make anyone sick. It doesn’t matter what someone looks like or where they’re from, everyone can get it. Refuse to make assumptions about where COVID-19 came from, or whether anyone is to blame for it’s spread.
Pay attention to the language used by anyone who talks about it around your family. Even world leaders might blame certain groups of people and this kind of talk should be stopped in its track.
Review and model basic hygiene and healthy lifestyle practices.
Put glitter (biodegradable if possible) on their hands and tell them to pretend it’s germs and see how long they have to wash to get it all off. Try the Germy Glitter Experiment for yourselves. Call it homeschool science while you’re at it.
Do or show them the bread test to show the difference between unwashed, sanitized, and washed hands. See how easy it is to do homeschool!?
Keep the Media to a Minimum.
Stop obsessively checking the news and internet about COVID-19. It’s not good for you and it’s not good for your kids.
If you watch the news, don’t watch it around your kids.
Remind them that Snopes exists for a reason. Talk to your kids about all the erroneous information out there about Coronavirus and how important it is to fact check.
Go to reputable news sites, such as the CDC or WHO
Let me say it again for the people in the back: constantly watching updates of COVID-19 (or any potentially scary topic) is known to increase anxiety—avoid this.
Kids thrive on routine.
Keep to a regular schedule, as much as possible. Knowing what to expect next is reassuring.
Encourage learning activities at home. But remember that school at home looks nothing like school at school.
Offer opportunities for them to keep up with their extracurriculars that they love which might help them feel calmer and more in control.
- If they seem overwhelmed, don’t push them. There’s nothing wrong with reading books all day. In fact, maybe you should try it.
- Just keep the media off.
- Get outside as much as you can.
You want to be able to talk with your kids about Coronavirus without scaring them. You want to be their source of information, and share with them accurate information about COVID-19 while not alarming them. Hopefully these tips will help.
Remember, we’re in this together!