By Eleanor Beeslaar, HRI Graduate Assistant
Coronavirus has led to some pretty big changes in our everyday lives, and it’s normal for us to be feeling confused, overwhelmed, and uncertain. These changes may be especially confusing and difficult for kids. It’s important for us as adults to help the kids in our lives understand what is going on and to support them through the feelings they’re having related to COVID-19.
Talking to kids about the coronavirus may feel like a daunting task when we’re also experiencing uncertainty and instability; however, it’s an essential part of supporting their emotional well-being during this challenging time. Try using the following tips to help guide you through this conversation with your kids!
Provide developmentally appropriate and factual information. Withholding information about coronavirus leaves kids to their imaginations to try and understand what is going on, increasing uncertainty, fear, and stress. While kids don’t necessarily need to know all of the details, it’s important to talk to them in a developmentally appropriate way. When providing information about COVID-19, be certain to do research and get fact-based information before starting the conversation. You have the ability and responsibility to filter the information in a way that your child can understand without overwhelming them.
Start with what your kid(s) already know. A great place to start a conversation about coronavirus is by asking your kids what they already know. This gives you an idea of how your child is understanding and processing COVID-19, and it provides an opportunity to correct any misinformation.
Be open to questions. Your kids will probably have lots of questions, so it’s important to let them know that you are there to answer any questions they may have. Try your best to answer the questions clearly, honestly, and simply. And remember, it’s okay if you don’t have all of the answers. Just be honest and let your kids know that even if you don’t have the answers to all of their questions, you will be there to get through this together!
Speak in a way that is calming and reassuring. With all of the worry and panic that can stem from the uncertainty of coronavirus, it’s important to be a stable and calming presence in your child’s life. When talking to them about coronavirus, try your best to use a soft and calm tone and provide reassurance.
Give your child specific tasks that can help them feel safe and in control. Another great way to help kids feel more secure and reassured during this challenging time is by talking about what they can do to stay safe, such as washing their hands for 20 seconds with soap and water before eating, after using the bathroom, and after touching commonly used surfaces.
Give your child space to process their emotions. We’re all experiencing a lot of emotions related to the coronavirus and the many changes that come with it. Let your kids know that it is normal to have feelings of anxiety, fear, and uncertainty, and give them space to talk about these feelings.
Check out these great resources aimed at providing factual information about coronavirus to kids!
Bartlett, J. D., Griffin, J., & Thompson, D. (2020). Resources for supporting children’s emotional well-being during the COVID-19 pandemic. Retrieved from https://www.childtrends.org/publications/resources-for-supporting-childrens-emotional-well-being-during-the-covid-19-pandemic
Ehmke, R. (2020). Talking to kids about the coronavirus. Retrieved from https://childmind.org/article/talking-to-kids-about-the-coronavirus/