Tips On How To Talk To Kids About Coronavirus

All of us have been bombarded non-stop with updates on the coronavirus outbreak by news outlets. As a parent or someone who has to take care of someone else's kids, you have understandably raised concerns regarding the impact of this relatively new virus especially among friends and families, and are now wondering how to communicate these to young ones in a reassuring way.

Though the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) said that children may be less susceptible to coronavirus compared to older adults, that does not mean that they will not start talking about it, and neither should you make them feel worried when you talk to them and answer their questions regarding the virus. To start, the Harvard Health Blog has shared its tips on how you should talk to kids effectively about coronavirus. Here are some of them:

Provide only essential, accurate information 

Whenever kids ask questions about the coronavirus, make sure that you answer these questions without making them feel anxious. That is because children, in particular, have complex imaginations that would lead them to making unnecessarily dark fears in their minds if grown-ups did not talk about serious topics. On the other hand, talking too much can alarm younger ones. 

So think thoroughly what kids absolutely need to know to understand what coronavirus is and what they should do about it. Reliable sources such as the CDC provide you with the range of information about the virus if you have questions. The World Health Organization's myth busters page can help you give answers to some questions, while debunking all kinds of misinformation about the virus.

Know kids' questions about the virus 

Before you start, ask what your child knows so far in case you need to clarify anything, and find out what questions does your child have about the virus. Here are some common questions kids can ask and suggested responses:

  • What is coronavirus? "It is a germ that behaves just like flu, making people sick. The feeling you have from getting the germ is a lot like what you felt when you get caught with flu: you get sick, you get cold and a cough, or have difficulty breathing." 
  • How do you get it? "Coronavirus behaves just like flu or a cold, with one difference being that it takes a lot of 'traveling' for it to infect someone else. As in the case of flu, you can prevent it from making you sick by sneezing or coughing into tissues before throwing them away, washing your hands, and keeping your hands off your eyes, nose or face."

Practice calmness 

Although you may be concerned yourself, it is important to practice calmness when talking about coronavirus to young ones. That is because children will look at you to see how afraid they should be of the virus the way you observe how others around you react to certain scenarios.

Limit news exposure 

Watching or reading the news is important for everyone to keep themselves informed. However, news stories sometimes use strong and scary wording that might worry many kids. Therefore, it is best to limit news-viewing to when your kids are asleep, or read the news independently so they do not hear the stories.

Keep an eye on reassurance seeking 

It is normal for children to ask questions, especially about something that is new to them. Sometimes kids ask questions out of anxiety, prompting a behavior called reassurance seeking. Although it appears that a child only repeatedly asks the same or similar questions, it actually increases that child's distress no matter how many times you answer them. 

If you notice your child doing reassurance seeking repeatedly, seek support to help your child manage anxiety. Ask your doctor to recommend mental health professionals who practice cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and have experience working with children struggling with anxiety. CBT offers your family strategies on handling and easing reassurance-seeking behaviors.

Coronavirus Outbreak As per the latest data, 6.85 million cases and 200,000 deaths due to COVID-19 have been reported in the U.S. Pixabay