Worried about COVID-19?
Honesty is the best policy, especially when you’re talking about the novel coronavirus (COVID-19). Children are perceptive and notice changes in body language, mood and intent. If they are not told what is happening, they can imagine things that are even worse than the reality.
It’s essential to give children simple explanations they can understand, with plenty of time to absorb and process new information. Children often need permission to ask questions, and you may find yourself answering the same question several times.
Try to focus on proactive steps they can take and less on virus details. It can be challenging to have to repeat information but it can play a big part in helping the child understand what is happening.
Follow these recommendations for dealing with novel coronavirus (COVID-19).
1. Make time
Pick a time that is free from distraction to talk to your children. Make sure they know they can come to you when they have any questions or need reassurance. After that initial discussion, remain flexible because children need ongoing communication to feel safe.
2. Remain calm and reassuring
Remember that children notice not just what you say but how you say it and other nonverbal communications. And they pick up cues from the conversations you have with others as well. What you say and do can either increase or decrease your children’s anxiety.
3. Be honest and accurate
First, ask your child what they know about COVID-19. Explain to them that some stories on the internet and social media may be based on rumors and inaccurate information, reminding them you’ll help them get factual information.
4. Stay age-appropriate
Keep it simple. Let them know that COVID-19 is a new virus, and we are still learning about it. Recently, this virus has made a lot of people sick, but doctors think that most people will be OK, especially kids. Some people might get pretty sick, but doctors and nurses are working hard to help people stay healthy.
5. Give them action items
Encourage your kids to practice healthy habits, such as washing their hands with soap and water after blowing their nose, coughing or sneezing, going to the bathroom and before handling food. Older children can help sanitize the areas we touch the most, like cellphones, doorknobs, light switches, remote controls and tables. This gives them something proactive they can focus on, instead of focusing on things they can’t control.
We’re all in this for the first time, and we’re all learning. Be kind and forgive yourself if you make mistakes. You can let your kids know that, with all honesty, COVID-19 will not last forever. We are all in this together.
If you suspect your child may have COVID-19, call their pediatrician and let them know before you bring your child in to see them.