3 Tips for Talking to Children About the Coronavirus
They know something is wrong. Trying to hide the truth from them will only make it worse.
When you have young children, there’s a fine line between answering their questions about COVID-19 and overwhelming them with too much information. Finding balance is the key to keeping them calm and secure.
If you have young children, we’ve got some tips for how to approach the subject of the coronavirus with them. It essentially boils down to three principles:
- Be truthful
- Be calm
- Be an example
Let’s explore these in-depth.
How to Talk to Your Children About COVID-19
1. Be Truthful When Talking to Your Children About the Coronavirus
Your children have heard about COVID-19. There is no point in trying to shield them from the information.
But what you can do is let them know you are the most trusted source.
Maybe they’ve heard “facts” from friends on social media. Perhaps they received an email from a fellow student who believes they have vital information.
Realize that not only have your kids had extensive information about the coronavirus but that a lot of it may be incorrect.
It’s also important to realize that excessive exposure to the news can lead to extreme anxiety.
- Keep a close eye on what they watch on television or online.
- Reduce the amount of screen time focused on the coronavirus.
- Give your children truthful information that is age-appropriate.
- Let your children know they can talk to you about COVID-19, and you will always tell the truth.
- Encourage them to tell them about things they’ve seen on social media. This will help you dispel rumors or misinformation.
- While it’s important to give your children accurate information, don’t saturate them with too much. This can be overwhelming for young minds.
We’ve examined the importance of being truthful, and next want to emphasize the importance of being calm when you communicate with your children.
2. Be Calm and Reassure Your Child in These Troubling Times
If you panic, they will panic.
Remember that your children don’t just turn to you for information, but they pick up on small cues in your behavior.
One way to reassure them is to make sure you are always available to talk. It’s okay to admit to them that you are concerned about the coronavirus. Tell them that you are taking steps to keep them safe.
In addition, be prepared to calmly answer their questions in an age-appropriate manner. Some of these questions may include:
- What is COVID-19?
- Am I going to catch it?
- What happens to people who get sick?
- How can I keep from catching COVID-19?
- Why can’t I visit/play with some of my friends?
- Why can’t I visit grandma/ grandpa?
- Why can’t I go to school? I miss my friends.
- Do people who get COVID-19 die?
Being prepared for these questions can help you guide a truthful, calming discussion with your children.
3. Be an Example of Appropriate Behavior
You can’t expect your children to wash their hands properly if you’re not doing it. Be sure you’re modeling all the behaviors you’re teaching to your children.
You can talk about these precautions together. Remind them:
- Stay away from people who are sick.
- Tell them to sneeze into a tissue or their elbow—and make sure you do the same thing when you sneeze.
- Teach them to wash their hands correctly (with soap and water for 20 seconds).
- Remind them to avoid touching their face if they haven’t washed their hands.
- If appropriate, enlist their help in keeping things clean—particularly items that are touched often like doorknobs, TV remotes and light switches.
If your older child is going to use hand sanitizer be sure they know how to use it properly. Young children should never use hand sanitizer without adult supervision.
Most importantly, these actions give your children a sense of control, which will make them feel better about preventing the spread of COVID-19.
Be on the Lookout for Certain Signs
Dealing with the anxiety of COVID-19 can put a strain on anyone’s mental health. Children are no different.
If your son or daughter is exhibiting the following signs, you should be very attentive:
- Withdrawal from activities
- Thumb sucking
- Clinging to parents
- Physical complaints
- Poor concentration
- Sleep problems
Some younger children may be afraid of the dark, and teenagers may become more agitated and have more conflicts or delinquent behavior.
If your child maintains these symptoms consistently for more than two weeks, you should consider consulting a health care professional. During this time, many psychologists and counselors have made themselves available through telemedicine.
Conway Medical Center is Dedicated to Helping Our Community Through This Crisis
We want to encourage you to keep the lines of communication open with your children. Be truthful, be calm and be a good example.
At our medical center, the safety of our patients and employees is the highest priority. This is why we’ve limited visitation and have added triage tents specifically designed for coronavirus testing. We encourage you to follow all health recommendations to stay safe and only gather information from reliable sources such as the Centers for Disease Control.
If you’re planning a visit to any Conway Medical Center location, please view our Coronavirus Updates Page to ensure the safest visit possible.