Talking to Children about the Coronavirus

Published: | by Kyrstin Hill

Helping children cope with this pandemic is an important part of care giving. Even young children know when something is wrong just from the look on a caregiver’s face and tone of voice. Times of uncertainty offer adults an opportunity to respond in a way that supports the growth of resilience. See these tips below from the Academy of Pediatrics and the National Association of School Psychologists about dealing with the Coronavirus Pandemic. Just knowing there are simple things children can do to stay healthy or prevent the spread of the disease will give them a sense of control and well-being.

  • Communicate to children that they are safe. Children may hear confusing information, so they need to be reassured that they are being cared for.
  • Encourage children to talk about their concerns so you can address the fear and reassure them.
  • Make sure children understand there are things they can do that will help keep them well and make sure fewer people get sick. These preventative actions include...
    • Washing hands with soap and water for 20 seconds. (This is a great opportunity to teach counting to 20 or singing “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star”.) Set up a consistent schedule for handwashing many times throughout the day so children know to wash hands after playing with others, after blowing, coughing or sneezing, after using the bathroom, before eating, etc.
    • Covering coughs with a tissue (and throwing it away immediately) or the inside of your elbow.
    • Not sharing food or drink.
    • Trying not to touch faces with unwashed hands.

Additionally, care givers can take the following actions in order to help model positive behaviors for the children around them.

  • Model these preventative actions for your children and control your own anxiety.
  • Limit media coverage of this pandemic and make sure you and they are listening only to factual information from reliable sources such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
  • Maintain a normal schedule as much as possible.
  • Avoid stereotyping or blaming any one group of people for the pandemic.
  • Help children understand as much science behind the pandemic as they can understand. A couple of resources for children can be found on Peekaboo Kidz the Dr. Bionics Show. “What is a Virus” and “Coronavirus” (ages 8 and up) contain information that helps explain the science behind this pandemic. As with all media, the recommendation is to watch these videos with your children.

For more information about how you can reduce your risk of exposure to transmittable viruses, please visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website at www.cdc.gov.