December 29, 2020

How to Talk to Kids About COVID-19

By Charity Apple

No matter where you turn, COVID-19 is a topic of conversation. For children and teens already dealing with grief and loss, this can create a heightened sense of anxiety. So how do parents reassure their kids during these uncertain times? It’s important for parents and caregivers to stay calm and answer any questions that children may have.

Conversation starters
“What have you heard about the Coronavirus?”
Allow your child to express how they feel about this pandemic. Children have active imaginations. Constant exposure to news reports or hearing adults talk about the virus can create a sense of fear. Be aware that they are always listening. Give them a safe space to talk about how their grief and loss has affected them. Be present – listen to what they have to say.

Share the facts
Depending on the age of the child, you could say something like: “The virus is a germ that is spread when people sneeze and cough.”

Address rumors
“Billy said that we don’t need to wear masks because this is a super virus and nothing can stop it.”
You can respond with: “The virus is similar to the flu and masks help with the spread of it. Wearing a mask can help you stay healthy. There are lots of smart people working on a vaccine to help prevent this virus from spreading, too.”

Remember to practice healthy habits
Explain to your child that during this pandemic, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend that we follow the three W’s:
Wear (Wear your mask when around those you don’t live with)
Wait (Wait six feet apart)
Wash (Wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds). If you don’t have access to a sink and soap, use hand sanitizer (and this can be adapted depending on the child’s age).

Stick to a schedule
Regular bedtimes, mealtimes and plenty of exercise are important not only for children and teens, but adults as well.
This pandemic has created uncertainty in all of our lives – if you are feeling anxious, take time to calm down before discussing this topic with your child.

Communication is key
Let them know that they can come to you with questions, concerns and fears. And when you learn new information, you will share it with them.

Talk with a Kids Path Counselor
Kids Path offers free phone consultations about how to help children and teens cope with death or severe illness. Call 336-621-2500 (Greensboro) or 336-532-0100 (Burlington) and ask to be connected with a Kids Path counselor.

Charity Apple is Communications and Digital Content Specialist on the Burlington campus.