The COVID-19 pandemic continues to unfold, and although we are inching toward a return to normal, we will continue to live with the virus in some capacity until there is a vaccine. The uncertainty is difficult for everyone—especially children—but kids will be looking to adults for answers. You don’t have to know all the answers to provide comfort and support to kids, but there are some tried and true tips that experts suggest when talking to little ones about big issues like coronavirus.
Create a Feeling of Safety
Above all, your goal should be to help your child feel safe. Limit their exposure to news and media. Use a calm and confident tone when sharing information about the virus. Let them know that most people who get the virus get better. And ensure they know they can come to you with questions and fears.
Use Age-appropriate Language
Depending on your child’s age, he or she will understand different degrees of complexity as you explain the virus. Children who are elementary school-age and younger need brief information: The virus is a germ, and hand-washing is an important way to keep from getting sick. Allow older children to lead the conversation with their own questions, and try to answer them succinctly so as not to overwhelm them with information. To instill hand-washing and mask-wearing, frame them as ways to protect friends, siblings and grandparents from getting sick. Young children may be motivated by the idea that, like superheroes, they must help keep others safe.
It’s important to acknowledge that life has changed, and it may not go completely back to normal for a while. Restrictions on gatherings, recreation and entertainment are temporary. In the meantime, we all have to do our part to stop the spread of germs. Teach your children good hand-washing and how to cover their sneezes and coughs.
This pandemic is bringing out many emotions—fear, anger, sadness and confusion. Whatever your child is feeling, allow them to express it, and let them know that their feelings are valid. Try to provide perspective, but don’t minimize. Everyone is experiencing something new.