8 Helpful Tips for Discussing Coronavirus with Your Child

Your child may have already heard about Covid-19 through friends, the news, or social media, but they look to you as a parent or guardian for deeper insight.  They may ask questions that no adult yet has the answer to: How long will it be before school reopens?  When will doctors find a cure?  These tumultuous times can present an opportunity for parents and guardians to teach their children how to navigate life’s uncertainties.  

  • First, share your concerns with other adults.


Discuss your anxieties with other parents and share notes on how you plan on discussing the virus with your children.  Set aside time to process developing news without children present.  Your friends and neighbors are all in this together, and you might be surprised by how many people share your perspective.

  • Learn how to address your own anxiety beforehand.


If you have a therapist available to you, schedule a phone call at your regular appointment time.  Dedicate a part of your day to your own mental health.  Communicate with those you trust about your feelings.  Although concern and appropriate precautions are reasonable, panic is not.

  • Keep your child’s cognitive ability in mind.


Before getting the conversation started, consider your child’s age and cognitive ability.  Which subjects would reassure your child, and which would further trigger their anxieties or hinder their day-to-day function?  Although parents/ guardians should strive to prepare their kids for the “real world,” children also need to learn to deal with their emotions appropriately.  

  • Let your child start and direct the conversation, but keep it basic.


Sit down with your child to get the conversation started.  Maybe kick things off with a question: “What do you know about coronavirus?”  Your child will then be in the ideal position to disclose their thoughts and fears about the situation.  Throughout the conversation, ensure that you as the parent/ guardian are controlling the dialogue: not the media.  Reassure your child and offer possible resolutions to their concerns.

  • Listen to your child’s fear and validate their feelings.


If or when your child professes their fear, let them know that you are listening and that their fear is within reason.  Maybe provide an anecdote about a time you were afraid as a child, and apply your story as a life lesson: fear is a normal response in certain situations, and living with fear is possible, if not inevitable.

  • Discuss the benefits of staying home from school.


Staying home from school will not only protect your child from getting sick, but it will also prevent your child or your child’s teachers from spreading the virus to more vulnerable populations.  With their time away from school, your child will also have the opportunity to learn new things, play new games, watch new shows, and pick up new hobbies.

  • Limit media exposure in your home.


While staying up-to-date is important, inundating your family with news updates can spiral everyone into panic.  The news often paints a narrative of impending doom to keep viewers engaged.  Try to limit your news intake to once in the morning and once at night, of course with exceptions for local emergencies.

  • Let your child know about the power they have to make a difference.


Good hygiene and social distancing have the power to save lives.  Your family’s decision to stay at home makes a difference in your community.  Let your child know that their decision to take personal responsibility has a substantial impact. 

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