How to talk to your kids about COVID-19

By Dr Karen Phillip

All mamas want to help their bambinos feel safe and reassured, and right now I’m sure they have lots of questions around COVID-19. So here’s how you can help your little ones feel safe – lowering the alarm and explaining WTF is happening at an appropriate age level.

1 // Ask them what they know

Asking and listening can allow you to correct or authenticate the information as you understand it. Asking questions about what kids and teachers at school are saying and respond appropriately to lower their concerns. Ensure you do not lead or plant fear in your child’s mind as this can escalate their anxiety. Tips on how
to avoid this are in the new Communication Harmony book.

2 // Follow their lead

Some children want to talk about the virus situation; others do not. Read your child, you know them better than anyone. If you feel they are shutting down due to fear, reassure them and prompt questions from them. If your child seems uninterested, may depend on age, let them know you are there to answer any question they may have.

3 // Speak calmly

Children mimic parents’ emotions; therefore, speaking calmly is essential. Be light-hearted, advising them this virus will pass in a few weeks, similar
to the flu virus every year that hits some people.

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4 // Turn off the news

News sensationalises everything, the wording is extreme for effect and visual content dramatised. Parents need to speak attentively and be guided by your child’s
responses and concerns.

5 // Don’t take them to the supermarket

When kids see pandemonium and empty shelves, they may become anxious. Explain people panic as it gives them a sense of control and often a far over-reaction. Assure them you have all you need and choose alternatives where required.

6 // Help them feel in control

Teach your children the steps to remain healthy. Good restful sleep to help their body recharge, eating healthy foods, and getting outside in the sunshine to play are all necessary to keep bodies healthy. Follow a routine of hand washing and wiping down surfaces around the home.

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7 // Explain a death from the virus

Children often fear not their demise, but that of their parents and grandparents. While some older people have fallen victim to the virus, many were unwell. Explain you are all healthy and taking steps to prevent any illness. Of course, if anyone has the virus, explaining it is like a cold or flu should be enough information.

8 // Let them get in touch with family members

To help alleviate any anxiety, call or Skype grandparents and family members so children can speak or see them. Reassurance is essential for a child to feel safe.

9 // Get them involved in stopping the spread of the virus

Encourage your kids to help stop the spread of COVID-19 by teaching them how to:

– Wash their hands often using soap and water
– Avoid being near people who are sick
– Let them see you are cleaning and disinfecting high-touch surfaces
– Show them how you wash clothes in warm water and finish them off in the dryer to kill any virus germs
– Wash toys in warm water daily and encourage your children to undertake this task as it provides more certainty for them they are proactively taking preventative steps

You can find more info on preventing COVID-19 at Prevention for 2019 Coronavirus.