Talking to Kids About COVID-19

Avoiding Discussions Might Leave Them More Frightened

“Mom, if you get sick will you die?” My four-year-old asked.  My heart sank.  My sweet fella’s statement was revealing.   He needed to talk, and I needed to give him assuring answers.  His brother joined our conversation and we got it all out. Their questions.  Their fears. 

While we don’t know to what extent the disease may spread here in the United States, we do know that it is contagious, that the severity of illness can vary from individual to individual, and that there are steps we can take to prevent the spread of infection. Our best strategy is to acknowledge some level of concern, without panicking.  We can also take actions that reduce the risk of illness.  We can help our children by providing accurate prevention information.  Our children look to the adults in their life for guidance on how to react. Let’s reassure them that health and school officials are working hard to ensure that people stay healthy.

A great way to check in with your kids on COVID-19 is by finding out what they already know.  Ask questions like, “What are you hearing about the coronavirus?” Some kids may want to spend time talking while others may not be very interested.  Follow their lead.  This is your chance to feel things out and see what your child needs.  Perhaps you’ll learn they have been misinformed or perhaps you’ll learn they aren’t very concerned.  Let them know you are willing to talk but most of all you are willing to listen.

Offer comfort and honesty. We want our kids to feel safe, but we never want to lie to them. Don’t offer more details than they are interested in but if topics come up, be truthful. You don’t have to have all the answers. If they ask questions you don’t know the answer to, say so.

This is a great opportunity to tell them all the things we can do to prevent the spread of disease. Talk about effective handwashing.  Explain how to do it thoroughly, how long, and how often. Talk about sneezing and coughing into elbows rather than hands.  Practicing these basic hygiene habits keep us healthy all year round.

Keep the lines of communication open. While we do not know the answers to everything right now, when we know more, we can let our children know too. Talk about the closures and changes.  Let them know what they can expect.  Sometimes just knowing the plan is all the assurance they need.

Make time to do things at home that have made you and your family feel better in other stressful situations.  Perhaps it is reading, watching movies, listening to music, playing games, exercising, or prayer.  Life may look different in the coming days, but we can use it as an opportunity to engage in meaningful activities that comfort our kids.  We can choose to make good memories even in a difficult situation.

Here’s some fun ideas for your next family gathering that we like to call the “Redneck Olympics.” A creative spin to many games you’ve already played, such as: seed spitting, tire rolling, javelin throwing, hammer toss, corn hole over the house and a super fun obstacle course…all redneck style!

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