Your kids are hearing about coronavirus from various places. You want to make sure they get reliable information — and you want them to hear it from you. Here's how to talk about it.
1. Ask questions.
This gives you a chance to learn how much kids know, and to find out if they're hearing the wrong information. Remember to gear them towards your child's age level. For older kids, you might ask, "What are you hearing about coronavirus? What questions do you have? What do you think about these events?" For younger children, you could say, "Do you have questions about the new sickness that's going around?"
2. 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. Don't offer more detail than your child is interested in, and don't overload them. For example, if kids ask about stores closing, address their questions. But if the topic doesn't come up, there's no need to raise it. Sometimes when someone becomes stressed, it's important to take time out from the discussion. Go play, read a book, listen to music. Do something fun.
3. Speak calmly and reassuringly.
Explain that most people who get sick feel like they have a cold or the flu. Kids pick up on it when parents worry. So when you talk about coronavirus and the news, use a calm voice. If you feel upset, admit to your child you feel anxious too, and then tell them how you talk to yourself to help your anxiety. For example, “I get nervous, too. But I remind myself that we are all safe, the experts are working on cures and vaccines, and it will soon be back to normal."
4. Make them feel safe.
Kids want to feel safe. And research shows that they best way to make kids feel safe is to have PREDICTABILITY. There isn’t much in the way of predictability these days. Schools are open one week, then on a AB schedule one week, then back to virtual for 9 weeks... and here we go again.
5. Be truthful.
You can help your child deal with this lack of predictability by being honest. Admit that you don’t know what will happen to schools in the next few weeks. If your child asks about something and you don't know the answer, say so. Use the question as a chance to find out together. Check the Center for Disease Control website for up-to-date, reliable information about coronavirus (COVID-19). That way, you have the facts.
6. Let your kids know that it's normal to feel stressed out at times.
Everyone does. Recognizing these feelings and knowing that stressful times pass and life gets back to normal can help children build resilience. Admit to them that you feel stress too. It’s OK. Sometimes they think they can’t have an emotion because you don’t show one.
7. Model for them how to healthily manage stress.
Set an example. How do you manage your stress? Take a walk, read a book, get involved in a project? Help them find physical means to deal with stress.
8. Give kids space to share their fears.
It's natural for kids to worry and wonder, "Could I be next? Could that happen to me?" Let your child know that children don’t seem to get sick like older adults do. Let them know you are doing what you can to keep yourself safe. Let them know what grandparents, aunts and uncles are doing to keep themselves safe. Let them know they can always come to you for answers or to talk about what scares them.
9. Talk to them about your plans.
One of the big fears kids have that they are often afraid to voice is, “What will happen to me if Mom or Dad gets sick?" or "If Mom gets sick and needs to go to the hospital, will Dad be there too?" Do you plan to have them stay with a family member or friend in these kinds of instances? Let them in on your plans.
10. Help them feel like they're in control.
We all like to feel like we are in control of our lives. COVID-19 has stripped us of much of this control. Taking control of the things you can will help with any anxiety. Here are some examples:
- Make sure they get lots of sleep and wash their hands often.
These things can often help them stay strong and well. Explain that regular hand washing also helps stop viruses from spreading to others. Be a good role model and let your kids see you washing your hands often! Remember to use lots of soap and sing the "Happy Birthday" song twice through to be sure you wash long enough.
- Talk about all the things that are happening to keep people safe and healthy.
Kids and teens often worry more about family and friends than themselves. We hear that older adults are more likely to be sicker or perhaps die. So, let your kids know that grandparents are doing what they can to stay safe. Doctors, nurses and hospitals have procedures in place to treat people who get very sick. Schools are making sure everything is disinfected and are working hard to keep kids safe.
- Put news stories in context.
If they ask, explain that death from the virus is still rare, despite what they might hear. Watch the news with your kids so you can filter out what they hear. At this time, only 1 in 10 people who contract the disease are actually dying. Most of these people were already sick with something else.
11. Know when they need guidance.
Be aware of how your kids get news and information, especially older kids who go online. Point them to age-appropriate content so they don't end up finding news shows or outlets that scare them or have incorrect information.
12. Keep the conversation alive.
Talk about current events with your kids often. Keep up to date on new breakthroughs, the decrease in cases, the increase in schools and businesses opening. It's important to help them think through stories they hear about.
Someday, we will look back on this and wish we had more time at home.
So, let's make the most of it TODAY.
***To stay updated on current data and facts relating to COVID-19, please refer to cdc.gov (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's website).***