Kids are feeling anxious and overwhelmed with all the news they are hearing about the Coronavirus. From hearing on the playground that so and so has the virus, to wondering what happens if I get the virus, kids are being inundated by misinformation. Parents are often unsure of what to communicate to their children and how to effectively share details about the Coronavirus without scaring them.
First off, realize that you should be the first point of education about the virus and that kids will be receiving quite a bit of misinformation. Here are some tips to talk to elementary school kids about the virus and what they can expect.
- Explain in simplistic terms that the virus is a type of flu, with most people having mild symptoms. There is a low chance that they would catch this flu, but if they did, they would feel sick for a little bit, but that like other colds they have had, they will most likely recover and be ok.
- Focus on reassuring kids that they are safe, and they have adults in their life who are handling this. Use a calm, reassuring voice and let them know it is ok to feel scared or have worries about the virus. You are there for them to answer any questions.
- Kids may also have fears and want to know if they can die from the Coronavirus. Explain to your child, that most people and children will not have problems if they have the virus, and it mostly affects older adults and people who have other health problems. They may have heard that someone died from the virus. Acknowledge that deaths have happened, however, put it into context, that it is a rare occurrence.
- Focus on what they can do. The most important thing they can do is wash their hands often, which helps to stop the spread of the disease. Teach and demonstrate to your children how to wash their hands correctly with soap vigorously for 20 seconds. https://www.cdc.gov/handwashing/when-how-handwashing.html Choose your favorite song that lasts 20 seconds to help time the washing and minimize any anxiety.
- Outside of that, they need to be kids and focus on what is important in their lives.
- Make sure that you are not modeling anxiety and oversharing with your kids. Ensure that you are calm when talking to them about the virus. Remember, kids are listening to what you have to say and taking your lead with how they should feel about the virus, so make sure they don’t overhear you sharing your anxiety about the virus with family or friends.
- Limit news viewing, which tends to sensationalize what is happening with the coronavirus. Listening to the news often leads to increased anxiety in most children.
- Talk about what the community is doing to keep people safe. Hospitals and doctors are treating patients, and are prepared to handle the virus and help people who are sick. Therapists are helping kids manage their worries about the virus. Schools are working to minimize the spread of the virus and have a plan in place in case they need to suspend school for a little bit.
- Be available and check in often with kids about how they are feeling about the coronavirus, and answer any questions they may have.
- Children are often more worried about others catching the virus than themselves. They may become worried about grandparents when they hear that older adults are more at risk than the young. Reassure them that grandma and grandpa are taking appropriate precautions and that they can talk to them on the phone or by video chat, to make sure they are ok.
Remember, it is not uncommon that outbreaks happen, such as in 2009 when the Swine flu broke out. Assure kids that you will get through this as a family and community and that they will be ok! Keep checking in with them about what they are hearing about the coronavirus and how they are feeling about it. If your child is experiencing increased anxiety and fear about the coronavirus, please reach out for support.