Covid Discussion
Covid virus

Let’s Talk About It

The conversation around COVID-19 is inescapable. Everyone’s talking about it, from news outlets to YouTube streamers. Many parents and caregivers may be feeling uncertain about discussing the topic with children – they want to inform their kids without panicking them.

The following tips, collected from KidsHealth, the CDC, Child Mind Institute, and the National Association of School Psychologists, can help.

Find out what your child already knows

For older kids, you might ask, "What are you hearing about coronavirus? What questions do you have?" For younger children, you could say, "Do you have questions about the new sickness that's going around?" This gives you a chance to learn how much kids know — and to find out if they're hearing the wrong information. i

Follow your child's lead

Some kids may want to spend time talking. But if your kids don't seem interested or don't ask a lot of questions, that's OK. ii

Remain calm and reassuring

Remember that children will react to both what you say and how you say it. They will pick up cues from the conversations you have with them and with others. iii

Avoid language that might blame others and lead to stigma

For older kids, you might ask, "What are you hearing about coronavirus? What questions do you have?" For younger children, you could say, "Do you have questions about the new sickness that's going around?" This gives you a chance to learn how much kids know — and to find out if they're hearing the wrong information. i

Explain social distancing

Children probably don’t fully understand why parents/guardians aren’t allowing them to be with friends. Tell your child that your family is following the guidelines of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which include social distancing. v

Focus on what you’re doing to stay safe

An important way to reassure kids is to emphasize the safety precautions that you are taking. Jamie Howard, PhD, a child psychologist at the Child Mind Institute, notes, “Kids feel empowered when they know what to do to keep themselves safe.” We know that the coronavirus is transmitted mostly by coughing and touching surfaces. The CDC recommends thoroughly washing your hands as the primary means of staying healthy. So remind kids that they are taking care of themselves by washing their hands with soap and water for 20 seconds (or the length of two “Happy Birthday” songs) when they come in from outside, before they eat, and after blowing their nose, coughing, sneezing or using the bathroom. vi

Focus on the positive

Celebrate having more time to spend as a family. Make it as fun as possible. Do family projects. Organize belongings, create masterpieces. Sing, laugh, and go outside, if possible, to connect with nature and get needed exercise. Allow older children to connect with their friends virtually. vii

i Pendley, J. S. (Ed.). (2020, April). Coronavirus (COVID-19): How to Talk to Your Child (for Parents) - Nemours KidsHealth. Retrieved April 15, 2020, from https://kidshealth.org/en/parents/coronavirus-how-talk-child.html

ii Ibid.

iii Talking with children about Coronavirus Disease 2019. (2020, April 1). Retrieved April 15, 2020, from https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/daily-life-coping/talking-with-children.html

iv Ibid.

v National Association for School Psychologists, & Sievering, K. (n.d.). Helping Children Cope With Changes Resulting From COVID-19. Retrieved April 15, 2020, from https://www.nasponline.org/resources-and-publications/resources-and-podcasts/school-climate-safety-and-crisis/health-crisis-resources/helping-children-cope-with-changes-resulting-from-covid-19

vi Ehmke, R., & Child Mind Institute. (n.d.). Talking to Kids About the Coronavirus. Retrieved April 15, 2020, from https://childmind.org/article/talking-to-kids-about-the-coronavirus/

vii National Association for School Psychologists, & Sievering, K. (n.d.). Helping Children Cope With Changes Resulting From COVID-19. Retrieved April 15, 2020, from https://www.nasponline.org/resources-and-publications/resources-and-podcasts/school-climate-safety-and-crisis/health-crisis-resources/helping-children-cope-with-changes-resulting-from-covid-19