Tips for Talking to Children about Coronavirus
At this time, there is a lot of uncertainty and an overwhelming amount of information about coronavirus. Children may be feeling especially anxious or concerned about themselves, friends and family members, or their social lives and the impact that this crisis could have. If you’re unsure about how to talk to children in your life about the coronavirus or their anxieties surrounding the disease, use these tips to communicate helpful information and reassure them.
1) Work out your own worry first before trying to reassure the children. Learn whatever information you need to be a calm, reassuring role model. If you are calm, they will be calmer. The most accurate information about coronavirus can be found on the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and World Health Organization (WHO) websites.
2) Ask them what they know—listen to what they have to say and reassure their fears that they bring to you. Help correct any misinformation they may have heard or believe.
3) Reassure them and give age appropriate information.
– For younger kids, the main message should be that they are safe and that adults are on the case. Keep it simple—balance facts with reassurance that school and home are safe.
– For older kids, help them separate rumor from fact. They will have more direct questions about whether they are truly safe and what will happen if COVID-19 comes to Allegheny County. Discuss what schools and officials are doing to keep us all safe.
– For teens, respect that they are able to discuss the issue in a more in-depth manner. Provide accurate, honest, and factual information about the current status. Direct them to trusted official sources like the WHO or CDC to empower them. Having knowledge can help this group feel more in control.
4) Monitor and limit media exposure, in an age appropriate manner. Younger kids should avoid the news. It is harder to control what older kids are seeing on TV and the internet, and much of what they are seeing may be sensationalized. Let them know they can and should come to you with their concerns and that you will help them figure it out together. This may be more of an issue at home than at school, but teachers and instructors can still make recommendations to older kids and teens.
5) If you don’t know an answer, admit that you don’t know but you will find it out from a trusted source. The Allegheny County Health Department has a dedicated webpage with links.
6) Teach proper hygiene. Encourage hand washing, and remind kids to avoid touching their faces. This is another action that empowers kids and allows control in a situation that seemingly allows little.
7) Bring in an expert. Consult a medical doctor to explain to children the reality behind what can be expected about transmission, what it is like to have it, and how to best prevent it. A trusted expert can be a great way to reduce anxiety in both kids and adults.
For the children in your life, reassuring them and helping to dispel misinformation is important during this time. By following these tips and taking steps to intentionally talk to them about their concerns, you can help ease their anxiety and make them feel more secure.
Stay up to date with with our community updates here: https://www.jfcspgh.org/coronavirus/