In the Face of a Crisis: How to Talk to the Children in Your Life About the Coronavirus

Adults have had to find ways to talk to children about large, and often, scary events in the past. And it can often be hard to talk to another adult—nonetheless—a young person about  distressful topics. So, how does one go about talking to a child about problems as large as the Coronavirus? According to the CDC, there are several steps one can take to be honest with children without alarming them:

  1. Remain Calm and Reassuring: We tend to forget that one of the things we are teaching children on a constant basis is how to have and act during conversations. However, you must remember that children tend to excel at picking up on emotional cues from you, other adults, and even by watching how you communicate with the adults around you. So, before you go and talk to your child about the facts of the Coronavirus, remember that they will react to both what you say and how you say it. How you talk to your child about this can set the tone for how they feel about it moving forward.
  •  Make Yourself Available to Listen and to Talk: Think back to something scary that happened when you were growing up. More often than not, fear provides people with more questions than answers, and this—in turn—can lead a person to becoming more fearful of something happening. So, make sure you leave time in your day and in your discussions for your child to have the microphone. Make sure they know that they can come to you with your questions. It is also ok if you do not have all the answers. In order to maintain trust, it is imperative to follow through on getting those answers. If they have a question that you do not have an answer for, validate the importance of their question, and promise them that if there is an answer, you will find it for them.
  • Limit Screen Time that Relates to the Pandemic: Children are always listening to what adults have to say. This does not just include what you have to say, but what adults maybe saying on the radio, television, Youtube, and other mediums. Too much information about any topic can lead to a form of anxiety. If and when possible, reduce the amount of screen time in your home that is focused on the Coronavirus.
  • Avoid Language that May Lead to Stigma and Blames Others: Remember that viruses can make anyone sick, regardless of a person’s: age, sex, race, or ethnicity. Avoid making assumptions about who might have the Coronavirus because of stereotypes.
  • Teach, Practice, and Model Everyday Actions to Reduce the Spread of Germs: Hand washing and reducing the spread of germs are always en vogue. Make sure to review with your children simple practices like how to properly was their hands and how often, remind them to cough into a tissue or into their elbow, and make sure they know how to properly use products like hand sanitizer. Prevention is a far easier step than treatment. You could even make a game out of things like being good about washing hands! Set up a stamp chart to get them in the habit of washing their hands, and reward them with something small, like a five minute dance party, or an extra story before bedtime for completing their cleanliness goals.
  • Make Sure to Practice Self Care: It is innate for most people to prioritize their loved ones, especially their children, over their own needs and desires. It is essential (and healthy) for you to be taking some time for self care during the pandemic. This is new and scary for you too, and as cliche as it is, a team is only as strong as its weakest individual.

Talking to your children about anything that may lead to heartache or stress can be hard for you and for them. You are not alone in having to do this, and do not be afraid to reach out to community resources, social media, and the people you know for support. Having the right tools can be the difference between trauma and obtaining coping mechanisms