The news about the coronavirus pandemic is everywhere. From newspapers to television and digital media, everyone seems to be talking about coronavirus. Your child may be worried or scared about themselves, their family members, and friends getting sick. Children look to adults for comfort when they are distressed.
You may not have all the answers, but it is crucial to have a conversation with your children to reassure them and to educate them about coronavirus. Here are some tips on how to talk to children about coronavirus and ways to respond to their queries.
1. Stay calm
Children are astute, and they can pick up when you are worried. So, speak in a calm voice and offer reassurance. Try not to sound too upset when you talk to others about coronavirus in front of your children. If you are feeling anxious yourself, take a few minutes to calm down before you have a conversation with your child.
2. Find out how much they know
You can begin by asking your children what they know about coronavirus. This gives you a chance to understand what they already know and if they have any wrong information.
Some children may spend a long time talking about the information that they have while others may not be interested in talking about it. If your child is very young and hasn’t heard about the outbreak, you don’t have to speak about coronavirus. Just talk to him about the importance of maintaining good hygiene.
3. Acknowledge their concerns
Don’t minimize or avoid the worries of your children. Acknowledge their concerns and fears and explain to them that it is ok to be scared or worried. Don’t dismiss their concerns by saying everything is fine. Listen to their fears and then explain to them that although bad things can happen, many people in the world are working hard to reduce the effects of this pandemic.
4. Give age-appropriate information
While children have a right to know what is happening in the world, it is your responsibility as a parent to avoid anxiety. Use age-appropriate language and try to avoid volunteering too much information as this may distress them. Instead, answer your child’s questions honestly and clearly. It is ok if you can’t answer some of their questions. Providing too much information can sometimes create alarm.
5. Encourage them to get their information from trustworthy sources
Your older children may have already read a lot of information about coronavirus on social media and online. Talk to them about how some of the stories about coronavirus on social media and the internet are inaccurate and false. Use this opportunity to explain to them that the websites of organizations like UNICEF (1) and WHO (2) are trustworthy and accurate sources of information. You must also limit the number of times they check the news. Encourage them to discuss the news after they have read it.
6. Check if they are experiencing or spreading discrimination
The coronavirus pandemic has also brought with it various instances of discrimination and social stigma around the world. Find out if your child is experiencing nor contributing to coronavirus bullying. Explain to your children that coronavirus has nothing to do with how a person looks, or what language they speak. Viruses can make anyone sick, regardless of their race or ethnicity.
7. Reassure your child
Your child may be worried about catching coronavirus after hearing about it on the news. He may ask you questions like – Will I get sick? Or Will I die? Reassure your child and tell him that children have milder symptoms.
Let your children know that they can be in control if they follow specific rules. Teach your children about the steps that they can take to reduce the spread of germs. Teach them to stay away from people that are coughing or sneezing. They should cough or sneeze in their elbows or tissue and throw the tissue away.
Teach your children to wash their hands properly with soap and water for 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, teach them to use a hand sanitizer.
8. Share positive stories
It is reassuring for children to know that doctors and nurses are working hard to help sick people become better. Older children may also be happy to know that scientists are working on developing a vaccine for coronavirus.
Share with your children stories of how health workers and other people in the community are working to help keep the community safe. It is comforting for children to know that many compassionate people are working to help them out.
9. Avoid certain conversations in front of kids
Children are astute observers. Unless you are in another room with the door clothes, do not assume that your child is not paying attention to what you are saying. Specific conversations, particularly about food shortages or worries about money, are best discussed when the kids are asleep.
10. Finish the conversation on a positive note
When you talk to your child about coronavirus, make sure that you finish the conversation on a positive note. As you wrap up the conversation, try to gauge your child’s level of anxiety. Watch out for his body language; consider his tone of voice and the rate of his breathing. You mustn’t leave your child in a state of distress.
11. Establish a home routine
Many parents have had to make massive changes in their lifestyle as they work from home during the coronavirus pandemic. Lack of schedule and predictability can stress out children as well. Since children are used to their daily school schedule, having a new home schedule is empowering for them. It is vital to make the children feel that their lives are not entirely disrupted. So continue to follow normal daily activities like playing in the backyard, cooking together, practicing the piano, and bedtime storytelling.
12. Keep the communication going
Your child may not show clear signs that he is anxious. Reassurance seeking, trouble sleeping, tantrums, moodiness, and irritability are some of the signs of anxiety. Sometimes children are not able to express how they are feeling.
Continue to talk to your children. Address any new questions they may have about the things they have heard. Even if you don’t have answers to their question, tell them that you will let them know as soon as you learn more. Let your children know that they can always come to you and ask you about things that scare them.
News about coronavirus outbreak can lead to a feeling of anxiety and fear in children. They may feel that they are their families are in imminent danger. Having an open and reassuring conversation with your child can help him understand and cope better. Talk to your child about his concerns and give an age-appropriate response.
Discuss the news with your older children and talk to them about the fact that not all stories on social media are true. Share positive stories that assure your children that people are working to make their community safe. Sometimes is it good to step away from the constant news cycle for the benefit of your child.