How to talk to kids about Coronavirus

Contributor: Dr. Elise Herman, KVH Pediatrics

Yes, it’s everywhere, and on everyone’s mind – and that may include your child. Kids hear about Coronavirus (COVID-19) on the news, from their friends and in adults’ conversations, and may be confused or feel anxious. As parents, we want to reassure our kids while giving them age-appropriate and accurate information.

Additionally, if they are feeling scared or worried, let them know that those feelings are OK (and normal) and that they can always come to you with any questions or concerns.

Here are some tips for discussing Coronavirus with your child:

  • Make sure you give your child your full attention and can speak calmly about this. You can start by asking what your child already has heard about Coronavirus. Modify the conversation to be very simple for young kids.
  • Explain that Coronavirus is a new virus which can cause fever, coughing and sometimes, trouble breathing. Most people who get this virus will not get very sick, and so far that is especially true with kids. Older individuals and those with health issues such as lung or immune system problems seem to be most at risk, but even so most do recover (important because your child may be worrying about grandparents and older friends or family members).
  • Let your child know that there are lots of smart people working to help – doctors, nurses, scientists, etc. They are helping to limit the number of people who get sick, treat those who are sick and are working on a vaccine to prevent it in the future.
  • There are things we can all do to help to prevent the spread of Coronavirus. We should wash our hands frequently for 20 seconds (that’s the ABCs song once), lathering, rubbing and getting in between fingers. Hand sanitizer is OK if soap and water are not available. Coughing or sneezing into our elbows or using a tissue (which is then thrown away) is very important. We all should keep our hands down and off our faces. If we are sick, we should stay home so we don’t get others sick.
  • Remind your child that if they do get sick, this does not mean they have Coronavirus – there are lots of ordinary illnesses like colds going around now, too. Reassure your child that you are in charge of their health and will take them to be checked if needed.

Unplug sometimes from the constant deluge of all things Coronavirus, whether watching or listening to the news, looking at the computer or interacting with social media. It can be overwhelming for our children and us. Try to maintain your usual routine and include fun and relaxation. Read a book together, go for a walk, play catch. Connecting with your child will make them feel protected and taken care of, very important at a challenging time like this.