How to talk with your kids about COVID-19
As you deal with your own COVID-19 stress, it can be even more difficult to help your children understand and cope. Remember, we are here to help you and our community stay healthy, both physically and mentally. Below you will find tips for talking with your children and teens about COVID-19.
It takes each of us working together to keep our community healthy and moving forward. Find more resources and Team Kentucky updates here.
As you try to make sense of this time yourself, we’ve put together a few different resources to help you explain to your children what’s happening. First, let’s talk about how to start the conversation with your kids.
Keep your explanations simple and age-appropriate. Remember to focus more on what your family is doing to stay healthy, than you are about the impact of the disease itself. Here are some examples, found in this report, of how to start these kinds of conversations:
Emphasize washing hands for 20 seconds. Practice a simple song with them so they can understand how long that is. Explain that adults are working hard to keep everyone healthy and safe.
Answer questions and let them discuss feelings of anxiety or worry. Help them understand how to get reliable information from the media. Encourage acceptance of all people that are hurting right now and try not to blame certain people or populations for what is happening.
Discuss questions about health, the economy, and the impact on your community, the state, the country, and the world. Let them talk about their worry, anxiety or fear and remind them these are normal reactions. Stick to the facts and point them towards reliable sources of information. Discuss the difference between being informed and media over-use that can create too much anxiety.
There are common ways your child may be reacting to the stress caused by this virus. This resource from the National Child Traumatic Stress Network helps walk you through some examples for each age group and gives you ideas for how you can best love and support your child.
The following are tips the CDC recommends for making this time as normal and stress free as possible for your child. This doesn’t mean you don’t talk about COVID-19, instead it means you’re open to conversations and you’re paying extra attention to the information your child is consuming around the topic.
Tips from the CDC:
Remain calm. Remember that children will react to both what you say and how you say it. They will pick up cues from the conversations you have with them and with others.
Reassure children that they are safe. Let them know it is okay if they feel upset. Share with them how you deal with your own stress so that they can learn how to cope from you.
Make yourself available to listen and to talk. Let children know they can come to you when they have questions.
Avoid language that might blame others and lead to stigma.
Pay attention to what children see or hear on television, radio, or online. Consider reducing the amount of screen time focused on COVID-19. Too much information on one topic can lead to anxiety.
Provide information that is truthful and appropriate for the age and developmental level of the child. Talk to children about how some stories on COVID-19 on the Internet and social media may be based on rumors and inaccurate information. Children may misinterpret what they hear and can be frightened about something they do not understand.
Teach children everyday actions to reduce the spread of germs. Remind children to wash their hands frequently and stay away from people who are coughing or sneezing or sick. Also, remind them to cough or sneeze into a tissue or their elbow, then throw the tissue into the trash.
If school is open, discuss any new actions that may be taken at school to help protect children and school staff.
We encourage you to read more about COVID-19 from the CDC, a trusted, fact-based source.
Exercises to Do With Your Kids:
The National Association of School Psychologists outlines a few guidelines for helping children cope during this time. Here are a few of the exercises they suggest you do with your children:
Practice deep breathing. Breathing exercises can help calm the nervous system and is a great tool for children and adults.
Have your kids share their thoughts and feelings. One great way to do this is to have them draw or write out how they’re feeling. Then you can better respond to their exact feelings/thoughts.
Create a routine and stick to it. This helps establish calm, control and well-being for your kids.
Stay positive and spread positivity. First, be aware of how you speak of COVID-19. Then, encourage your children to find ways to help or encourage others. This could be writing a letter to a neighbor or making a positive video together for social media.
We have more resources to help you and your family understand and protect yourself from COVID-19. Read more articles and frequently asked questions here. We’re Team Kentucky and we’re so glad to be working alongside you to keep your family safe and healthy.