How best to address the topic of coronavirus to young children
The subject of coronavirus can be a sensitive one with children. They could have learned about the pandemic through various sources – like the internet, TV and even friends – before hearing about it from you. However, it’s not a topic kids can always easily understand.
For this reason, their imaginations could too easily run riot, potentially leading your offspring to suffer intense feelings of stress, anxiety or sadness. That’s why you can’t afford to simply brush the whole subject of COVID-19 under the carpet when you are around your little ones.
Tackle the subject head-on
“It’s up to the grown-ups to start these conversations with our kids,” clinical psychologist Rebecca Schrag Hershberg says in words quoted by Good Housekeeping. “Kids are sponges for the energy they feel around them, and for hearing adults talk about things in whispered tones.”
Therefore, by trying to repeatedly hide pandemic news from your kids, you could end up inadvertently sending out the message that this news is too scary for them to handle.
Strike a reassuring tone
If you have a child with a history of adverse mental health, you should ask their doctor for advice about the best way to discuss coronavirus in this particular child’s presence.
In any case, though, when broaching the subject with kids, you should always do so casually and informally – as though the problem is indeed a problem but not one the household can’t handle. Remind your children of the many health professionals who are working hard to mitigate the crisis.
Listen carefully to any concerns they have
Unfortunately, some children’s worries about coronavirus can rather bubble under the surface without ever quite breaking cover.
Hence, you should invite your child to reveal what they already know about coronavirus – especially as you could correct them if they are wrong on any point. If they are worried about anything specific, you could address that and assure them that their anxiety is understandable.
Be honest but sensitive, too
If your children ask you any COVID-related questions you genuinely can’t answer, don’t simply guess – your little ones are entitled to know truthful information. All the same, though, you shouldn’t give them any information that you know would distress them.
So, if you are none the wiser about something, you could – with your children – use websites of respected bodies like UNICEF and the World Health Organisation to find out together. As UNICEF itself advises, you should explain to your child that not all online information is accurate.
Teach them various anti-COVID measures
“You might say, ‘Some people are getting sick right now, so we have to keep washing our hands and making our healthy choices!’” Katie Hurley, who wrote The Happy Kid Handbook, suggests.
Those “healthy choices” you teach your kids could include covering a cough or sneeze with an elbow. You should also ask your child to let you know if they start developing a fever, a cough or breathing difficulties, as you could then book a COVID-19 test from a firm like MyHealthChecked.