How to Talk to Kids About Coronavirus Disease
General Tips and Guidelines for Parents:
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. Kids worry more when they're kept in the dark.
Offer comfort — and honesty
Focus on helping your child feel safe but be truthful. Don't offer more detail than your child is interested in. For example, if kids ask about school closings, address their questions. But if the topic doesn't come up, there's no need to raise it unless it happens.
Speak calmly and reassuringly
Explain that most people who get sick feel like they have a cold or the flu. Kids pick up on it when parents worry. So when you talk about coronavirus and the news, use a calm voice and try not to seem upset.
Give kids space to share their fears
It's natural for kids to worry, "Could I be next? Could that happen to me?" Let your child know that kids don't seem to get as sick as adults. Let them know they can always come to you for answers or to talk about what scares them.
Kids and teens often worry more about family and friends than themselves
For example, if kids hear that older people are more likely to be seriously ill, they might worry about you (the parents) or the grandparents. Reassure your child that you will take all reasonable steps to ensure you do not get ill and explain that if you do, there would be ways to treat the illness and it may not be particularly severe. If your child would like to do so, allow them to check in with their grandparents over phone or Skype regularly, to help ease their worries.
Help kids feel in control
Give your child specific things they can do to feel in control. Teach kids that getting lots of sleep and washing their hands well and often can help them stay strong and well. Explain that regular hand washing also helps stop viruses from spreading to others. Be a good role model and let your kids see you washing your hands often!
Dealing with school closures
You may want to prepare now for potential closures by shopping for new games, books and arts and crafts supplies for your children.
If they happen, frame school closures as a positive — more time at home where we can have fun! — rather than something to fear, especially among the youngest children.
Try to maintain a routine as much as you possibly can and ensure that your children get plenty of exercise to burn off stress.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly: try to enjoy the time spent together as much as you can and remind yourself that “this too shall pass”.