Many parents are wondering how to bring up the epidemic in a way that will be reassuring and not make kids more worried than they already may be.
Don’t be afraid to discuss the coronavirus. Most children will have already heard about the virus or seen people wearing face masks, so parents shouldn’t avoid talking about it. Not talking about something can actually make kids worry more. Look at the conversation as an opportunity to convey the facts and set the emotional tone. Your goal is to help your children feel informed and get fact-based information that is likely more reassuring than whatever they’re hearing from their friends or on the news.
Be developmentally appropriate. Don’t volunteer too much information, as this may be overwhelming. Instead, try to answer your child’s questions. Do your best to answer honestly and clearly. It’s okay if you can’t answer everything; being available to your child is what matters.
Deal with your own anxiety. If you notice that you are feeling anxious, take some time to calm down before trying to have a conversation or answer your child’s questions. I always suggest a cocktail *wink* , but you choose what will be the best way to chill out before approaching this subject!
Be reassuring. Children are very egocentric, so hearing about the coronavirus on the news may be enough to make them seriously worry that they’ll catch it. It’s helpful to reassure your child about how rare the coronavirus actually is (the flu is much more common) and that kids actually seem to have milder symptoms.
Focus on what you’re doing to stay safe. An important way to reassure kids is to emphasize the safety precautions that you are taking. The CDC recommends thoroughly washing your hands as the primary means of staying healthy. So remind kids that they are taking care of themselves by washing their hands with soap and water for 20 seconds (or the length of two “Happy Birthday” songs) when they come in from outside, before they eat, and after blowing their nose, coughing, sneezing or using the bathroom. We actually make a game of it in our house!
Stick to routine. This is particularly important if your child’s school or daycare shuts down. Make sure you are taking care of the basics just like you would during a spring break or summer vacation. Structured days with regular mealtimes and bedtimes are an essential part of keeping kids happy and healthy.
Most importantly is to Keep talking. Tell kids that you will continue to keep them updated as you learn more!