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Talking Coronavirus with Kids

With news spreading about the Coronavirus, it is critical to reassure children about their safety and dispel any rumors they may have heard. Strategies for talking with children about this difficult topic are provided below.

Get ahead of the conversation. Begin by asking them if they’ve heard of the coronavirus and if so, what they have heard. This allows you to respond to their concerns, provide fact-based information, and correct misinformation. Let your child guide the conversation. 

Give age-appropriate information. Reassure children that they are safe. People with healthy immune systems can handle the virus and recover quickly.  There aren’t a lot of cases in kids and if kids do get the virus it tends to be very mild. Be simple and concise. Don’t offer more information than your child is interested in. Children may also worry about their loved ones becoming sick so be sure to remind them that you are taking care of yourself as well. This comic, from Malaka Gharib, is a great resource to show children.

Encourage children to share their concerns. Asking open-ended questions can help you assess your child’s emotional state.

Responding to questions. Your child will likely have questions. Keep your responses honest and clear. Be sure to obtain information from trusted sources such as the Centers for Disease Control. Do not research the virus in front of your child as you want to be sure to frame the information in a supportive way.

Keep your routine. Staying in your routine will promote predictability and comfort for children.

Help your child feel in control. Teach your child specific things they can do to empower themselves. Reinforce healthy hygiene habits including getting lots of sleep and washing their hands regularly.

Be available. Children may need extra attention or support during this time. It is important that lines of communication remain open. 

Be mindful of your own worries. If you are feeling anxious, take time to calm down before having a conversation with your child.  Children look to adults for guidance on how to react to stressful events. Model a calm, confident presence. If you’re anxious or frightened, they will respond accordingly.

Monitor children for changes in behavior or mood. Often, a child’s anxiety will manifest in physical presentations such as stomachaches, headaches, or muscle tension. Children may also demonstrate more acting out behaviors, difficulty sleeping, changes in eating habits, or avoidance of situations. 

Contact a qualified mental health provider today to gain mastery of your anxiety.