Talking to your kids about COVID-19
News about the coronavirus is, quite simply almost everywhere. Which means there is little to no chance that your children will not already be well aware of it.
They’ll have noticed more people wearing face masks in public. They’ll have seen all the empty shelves at the supermarket. They’ll have listened to their teachers telling them how important it is to wash their hands for as long as it takes to sing ‘Happy Birthday’ twice.
As a parent or guardian, it’s your role to provide your children with the answers they need in an honest and age-appropriate way.
Here’s how you can go about doing this.
Don’t avoid talking about it
Children, as you know, are often eager to find out more. Especially when there’s a new virus that is affecting everyone around the world. Things they’ve heard may be causing anxiety – which means not talking about the virus and what it actually means could lead them to worry even more.
Ask them what they already know
Get ready to be surprised. With today’s plethora of instant news sources, your child is likely to be a whole lot more informed than you may have imagined. Take time to listen to what they already know of the virus … and be sure to clarify any misunderstandings they may have.
Choose the right time
It’s a good idea to talk to your children about the virus when you are each feeling relaxed – for example, when sitting at the dinner table or after watching a movie together. This is far better timing than when they’re in the middle of a tricky homework assignment or when you’re feeling agitated or anxious.
Be calm and reassuring
Instead of quoting things like death rates (which could increase their anxiety) it’s best to do this in a general way by explaining how the virus is less common and severe in children compared to adults. However, make sure you also reassure them of all the things you are doing as an adult to avoid catching the virus, so they don’t feel alarmed mum, dad or other loved ones might become unwell.
Also, be sure to allow regular contact (by phone or video call) to help reassure your children that other people they may worry about, like their grandparents, are safe and well.
Reduce their media exposure
Easier said than done, we know. But do your best to monitor when and where your children are being exposed to media reports of the virus, since frequent exposure could increase their level of fear and anxiety.
Try to be with them when they are watching, listening or reading the news so you are able to address any questions they may have.
And finally, manage your own anxiety before you manage theirs
Your children will look to for cues on how to manage their own worries. So it’s vital to stay calm and manage your own anxieties before bringing up the subject of the virus and answering any questions they may have.