The media has been saturated with a lot of coverage on coronavirus lately specifically COVID 19. Even if you have done your best to shield your child from the news it is likely they have heard about COVID 19 at school or from friends. It’s important to address this to make sure your child has the correct information and to alleviate potential fears your child may possess.
As adults, we know the media can misconstrue information and that can be hard for a child to sort through. Oftentimes, if we don’t talk about it, kids tend to think the worst. When children have the support of a trusted adult and are communicated within a developmentally appropriate way, they have the ability to understand difficult or advanced information.
Talking about Coronavirus with Kids
Here are some things to consider as you navigate this conversation.
Where to start
Ask your kids what they already know or have heard. This is a great starting point and can help identify if you need to address specific misconceptions. A misconception to consider that many adults possess is that Coronavirus is new. Coronavirus itself is not a new virus however COVID 19 is, and that is the specific virus that is happening now.
When children express specific fears or worries, be sure not to discredit them. Saying things such as “don’t worry” in an attempt to provide comfort are not as helpful as more validating statements such as “I can see why you may feel that way.”
Keep the focus on what we know to be true
A few points to highlight:
- This is a virus that is like a cold or flu
- It is spread from person to person
- Washing hands is the best way to stop the virus
Encourage open communication
Set the foundation to empower your child to ask questions regarding the information they hear. Keep in mind it is OK if you don’t know the answer to your child’s specific question. Simply stating, “I don’t know” and suggesting an approach of finding out together is appropriate.
It is not the goal to instill fear in your child. You can still promote seriousness while remaining calm. Stick to facts and reassure them that there are many people who are working hard to protect others and prevent the virus from getting worse. Keep in mind children can sense when their parent is feeling stressed or worried. Of course, you don’t want to hide your emotions but be sure you have a good grasp on them before starting the conversation.
Empower your child and be a model
After providing children with this information speak to their expertise on handwashing and hygiene. A statement such as: “You already know about how to help stop germs. You know how to wash your hands and cover your cough.” acknowledges that your child has some control. Be sure to be a model of this important behavior by washing your own hands. You could even practice together after having this conversation!
It is important to be informed but consider taking a break from the news and TV to avoid unnecessary anxieties. Remember to stick to the facts, and be a model of the behaviors you wish your child to exhibit.