For anyone cooped up with kids, managing the daily routines and the barrage of questions about the coronavirus can be daunting! Here are some tips for talking to kids about COVID-19.
- Take a deep breath and check yourself first. The first step is managing your own worries and uncertainties. It’s important to be honest with kids but it needs to be paced and filtered in a calm and age-appropriate way. It’s ok to take a minute to collect your thoughts.
- Find out what they know. At school, they’ve been talking to their friends about coronavirus for weeks already. Their knowledge about COVID-19 is likely scattered and inaccurate, which can be scary. Answer their questions as simply and factually as you’re able.
- Be curious about their feelings. In the same way that you find out about their thoughts, you can ask about emotions! They may be scared of their family getting sick, frustrated about missing play dates with friends, or just generally stressed without understanding why. Give them time to voice these emotions while really listening and letting them know that all their emotions make sense.
- Explain the manageable facts. Teach them the importance of hand washing and elbow coughs/sneezes. Have a contest to see who can lather up the most bubbles or sing “happy birthday” twice while they scrub. Younger kids might enjoy this experiment about the effective use of soap: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fqOQxz20MHg
- Limit media exposure. If the 24-hour news tracker increases our anxiety then it’s certainly confusing and worrying for kids too! If you need to check the news, step away for a moment to do so. Try to keep the conversation topics between adults varied and save the heavy discussions for after their bedtime.
- Maintain a routine. Stick to relatively structured sleep, wake and meal times and divide the day to make time for learning and fun. Predictability in routine can be calming for kids. Having your kids go to bed at a reasonable time will also allow you to have some much-needed time to decompress.
- Stave off cabin fever. Brainstorm with your kids about ways to stay busy, learning and having fun at this time. Libraries, museums and parent groups all have links to free entertaining and educational activities online. Have them consider ways to stay active and get outside as great ways for maintaining a healthy balance.
- Look to the future. Reassure kids (and yourself) that this too shall pass. Kids can think about ways they can help their community, including making donations to food banks, making cards for seniors, or helping arrange delivery of supplies to friends and family members who are vulnerable at this time. Help them to remember ways that people can work together to get through a tough time.
It’s an uncertain time with ever-changing news, advice and recommended precautions. Make sure you check in with your own thoughts and emotions and reach out for support if needed!