Wondering what to say to your kids about the Coronavirus? Or maybe you’re unsure how to talk to your kids about what they’ve already heard about Covid-19? Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist, Geeta Nangia, at Parkside Pediatrics Behavioral Health wrote this advice for us to share with our readers. We thank her very much for putting this information together and hope it helps our readers feel confident speaking with their kids as this situation unfolds.
Looking for more? Visit our Coronavirus in Upstate, SC Guide for local response, resources, healthcare options, telehealth options and more.
How to Talk to Children About the Coronavirus
As concern over the spread of the coronavirus rises, how can we talk to our children about this virus in a way that is accurate, age appropriate, and helps to mitigate anxiety?
Assess what your children already know. For instance, very young children (under 5 years) who do not know anything about coronavirus, can benefit from simply knowing healthy habits, and nothing else.
Focus on making hygiene fun. For instance, help your children become “germ busters!” Sing songs like “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star” while washing hands for the full duration of the song. Teach them to “catch their cough” by coughing into their elbows. Use fun role play to show them how to keep their hands off their faces. Talk to them about how a good sleep can keep their bodies strong and make them great germ busters the next day!
School aged children can benefit from knowing the basic facts about coronavirus. Be the first to share facts with them as information from peers may be inaccurate or anxiety inducing.
The “kid” facts, are pretty simple at this point:
- Coronavirus is contagious, like the flu, and can cause flu-like symptoms.
- The best way to keep healthy is to stick to healthy habits: wash hands, use hand sanitizer, cover coughs or sneezes with your elbows, keep hands off your face, and stay home if you have a fever, cough, or flu-like symptoms.
- If you get sick from coronavirus, plenty of doctors are available to help.
Be prepared to answer questions your children might have in an age appropriate way.
For example, if your child asks, “What if I get the coronavirus?” You can answer, “If you happen to get the virus, it means that you stay home for a bit and we will take care of you. Like the flu, you will be able to go back to school once you are better and not contagious.”
Children’s anxiety decreases when we reassure them that they are safe.
Let your children know that we have lots of people working to keep them well and safe. Focus on keeping routine in your home and enjoying family time together.
This is a great time to redirect children’s thoughts toward positive things.
Doctors everywhere are working hard to learn more about this virus. This is a great time to talk about the heroes around us, like the doctors, nurses, and scientists who work with communities to find ways to keep all of us well. Talk about how people in different careers can make a difference in the lives of others when something like this happens. This is also a great time for your child to learn that people all over the world can work together toward a common goal.
Children respond to parental anxiety, so it is best to keep your own anxiety low and to remain calm.
If you are finding yourself feeling anxious about the coronavirus, find ways to handle your own feelings so that your child doesn’t react to your stress levels. Your calm and reassuring response and demeanor will help your child to feel better.
Always let your children know that it is important to you to keep “talking” lines open.
Let your children know that if they have questions, they can come to you and ask. Also, make time with your children so that they can talk to you about their day. This opens up room for discussion about what they are thinking, hearing, and feeling. It creates an opportunity for them to ask questions about what may be on their minds.
Geeta Nangia, M.D.
I am a Board Certified Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist at Parkside Pediatrics Behavioral Health and write a blog on parenting and children’s mental health issues at www.agapeparenting.com.