Talking to kids about COVID-19

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If you need some guidance and support on navigating your life during these times, browse through the article to the left. The article speaks about practical things you can do to help yourself and become less anxious. We all need help from time to time!

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Talking to Kids About COVID-19

There is a lot of info out there and sometimes it can be hard to figure out what is useful or helpful. Below are some resources that we've looked at and think are good for helping talk to our children and young people about C-19. The main ideas are around being open to their questions and giving them as much detail as they are asking for but not more. How you talk about it will depend on the age and development of your child-below are some ideas.

A Dr. Answers Kids' Questions about COVID

A medical professional answering questions in kid-friendly language.

Social Stories for Explaining Covid-19

Social stories are a great way to talk about specific topics with children. They use child-friendly language and pictures in storybook format. You can even make your own if you want to explain or teach something important. Below are two good ones for explaining COVID-19 to children.

Talking to Children About COVID-19 (and other 'tricky feelings'). From PBS Newshour

Talking about something like a pandemic is new for most of us. But many of the same ways we assure and comfort children still work. PBS has 10 really good tips for doing this in a healthy way. The link is here --> if you like to see the whole thing. A shortened version is just below.

1.Make children feel safe. Watch your words and tone. Stay calm. Reassure children that this is temporary and that they, and their caregivers, are going to be just fine.

2.Give them facts, and let them lead the discussion. Children need simple, honest answers. Avoid hushing your talk when they walk into a room, and never lie. A rule of thumb? Let them lead the discussion. Too much information can create anxiety. Answer only what they ask. There is a good video explaining COVID-19 here:

3.Give them power — and responsibility. Kids do better when they have power; it’s one of their emotional needs. And this is a great time to give it to them. But with great power comes great responsibility, right? Kids can help their neighbors and loved ones stay safe and healthy if they frequently wash their hands with soap and water for 20 seconds, or as long as it takes to sing “Happy Birthday” twice.

4.Let them know what to expect. The rough part here is we don’t know exactly what to expect. But we do know some things. We know, for instance, we’re going to be seeing a lot less of the people in our lives. We know that we’re going to have to find creative ways to pass the time at home. We know that we aren’t going to have access to all the foods we like, and that we’ll have to work harder to keep ourselves, and our homes, clean.

5.Empathy, empathy, empathy.

So much good can be done when we allow our kids to express the full range of their emotions, and when we receive those feelings with empathy (putting ourselves in their shoes). If their fears and frustrations are minimized or dismissed, they likely will show up in other ways — fighting with siblings, throwing tantrums or being generally uncooperative. For small children with big emotions, get on their level and say something affirming like, “I imagine you are worried about getting sick. I wonder if you are frightened about all the things that are suddenly changing.” You don’t have to agree with a child’s thoughts or feelings to acknowledge them without judgment or minimizing.

6.Keep your child’s developmental stage and temperament in mind. Depending on their ages, stages and temperaments, some children will require more reassurance or more time to transition than others. The situation is unique, and so is your child. Keep your expectations in check. If things go sideways in unexpected ways, it might be a good time to say “isn’t that interesting?” and let it go.

7.Try to maintain a normal routine.

It’s not easy to “stick to routine” when school closures have upended our routines massively. But try to establish a new routine, as best you can.

8.Model the behavior you want to see.

Children look to us for guidance and support, especially in trying times. Model a positive confidence about the topic, and stay grounded. That goes for issues like hygiene and social isolation, too. You can’t expect a 6-year-old to wash her hands or a 10-year-old to isolate from his friends if their parents aren’t willing to do the same.

9.Consider adjusting the screen time limits.

With so many of us at home, and unable to count on our usual childcare, getting by is a good thing; this isn’t the time to beat ourselves up. If you need to temporarily adjust your screen-time limits, do it. Just be smart about it; if you loosen all the limits around addictive games or programs, those things will be much harder to manage after things calm down, so try to be specific about how much time is allowed and with whom they can communicate.”

10.Take care of yourself.

These are anxiety-producing times on a number of levels; we caregivers are shouldering a lot. Be sure to take care of yourself. Turn off the news; too much discouraging news is bad for our health — and our kids’ health. Run a bath; light candles; take a walk or a long afternoon nap; meditate. Look for sensory experiences — pet the dog or cat, flip through a family vacation album, put on some music or bake cookies. Do things that make you feel good and centered.

Take this opportunity to reflect and make some positive changes to your new normal. Slow down and play games, read books, snuggle and cuddle, cook together, authentically connect and play together.

You and your child will get through this — and, if you’re lucky, you may even be a little better for it in the end.