Talking to your kids about COVID-19
With the borders opening soon and more information about COVID-19 in the news, your kids may have lots of questions about what is going on, especially once restrictions start coming back into place.
You can help your children manage their worries by providing them with the answers they need in an honest and age-appropriate way. It might help to have a read of the official government information, here, before chatting with your kids so you can be confident when answering any questions they have.
Below are some tips to help you have this conversation.
Don’t avoid talking about it
Children, as you know, are often eager to find out more. Especially when something is happening in the world that everyone around them is talking about. They may be feeling anxious about rumours or incorrect things that they have heard – which means not talking about COVID-19 and how it affects them and their family could lead them to worry even more.
Ask them what they already know
Get ready to be surprised. With the amount of information children absorb through overhearing conversations, hearing news reports on the radio and reading things online, your child probably knows a lot more than you think. Take time to listen to what they already know about COVID-19 and be sure to clarify any misunderstandings they may have.
Of course, you may not have all the answers. Acknowledge when you don’t know the answer, then try to find some answers together. You can also reassure them by talking about the fact that Australia’s top experts are on the job to keep us safe or tell them what is being done by others to find the answer.
Choose the right time
Like with any difficult conversation, it’s a good idea to talk to your children about COVID-19 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, just before bedtime or when you’re feeling agitated or anxious.
Be calm and reassuring
By choosing a time when you are not anxious, your child is more likely to feel calm as well. Decide what is relevant for them to know and what they can do to look after themselves (like washing their hands). For example, instead of quoting things like case numbers (which could increase their anxiety) you could explain that the virus is less common and severe in children compared to adults. 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 scared that mum, dad or other loved ones might become unwell.
Also, be sure to allow regular contact (by phone or video call) with loved ones who you can’t visit. This will 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 about COVID-19, 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 as well
Parenting can be tough at the best of times. Add in something that causes extra stress to you and your children and suddenly things might feel a lot harder. It’s important to make sure you look after your own mental wellbeing, as this will help you support your children during this time too.
Your children will look to you for cues on how to manage their own worries. So managing your own mental health will help your kids stay calm too.
Talking with people you love and trust (even if it is over the phone) can help you gain and maintain your optimum level of mental health and wellbeing. There are lots of other things that you can do to look after your mental health – see our page on mental health tips and tools for more information.
For more information on supporting your child’s mental health see our page for parents.
For more information on helping your child through difficult behaviours or negative emotions and boosting positive emotions check out the Families Under Pressure campaign.
Content last updated: 15 December 2021