Talking with Kids about Coronavirus

Facts and information about the coronavirus pandemic are constantly changing. Visit the CDC site for the most up-to-date information during the COVID-19 outbreak.

Chances are good that you are feeling some anxiety right now, and therefore chances are very good that your kids are also experiencing some anxiety. Some of the signs you might be seeing in your children:

  • nervous stomachaches
  • headaches
  • challenging behavior
  • trouble sleeping
  • extra crying or fearfulness

It’s time to talk about the coronavirus.

Answer kids’ questions

Your children may wonder why they can’t go to the park, why they have to stay home all the time, or why they can’t go to school to see their friends. Maybe they don’t understand why they can’t give hugs to to cousins, why people are wearing face coverings, or why they can’t visit grandparents.

You don’t need to tell young children everything you know about the coronavirus, but you should be prepared to answer their questions. 

COVID-19 is a very contagious disease, so people are taking extra steps to make sure it doesn’t spread throughout the community.  Some of these steps include social distancing, hand washing, and staying home.

It’s all about them

Young children are self-interested; that’s developmentally appropriate. They worry that they might catch the disease, and they wonder what will happen to them if their parents get sick or die. 

Here are some comforting things you can tell your kids:

  • “We are taking all these steps to make sure our family is safe.” Lay out the steps you are taking. Kids will find it reassuring and empowering that their hand washing is helping keep them safe. 
  • “If Mommy or Daddy gets sick, we have someone who will take care of you.” Let your kids know who will be in charge if you should catch the virus, even though you are confident that you are taking all the steps to stay safe. Assuring them that you definitely won’t get sick probably won’t reassure them, but they may not feel able to disagree. Knowing that Uncle Corey or a trusted neighbor would pick up the slack can help. 
  • “Let’s pack a bag for you” or “Let’s make sure we know when Bun-Bun is.” Sometimes kids get focused on something small in the scheme of things. If your child worries about mislaying homework or needing to care for a stuffed animal, help them sort out that one concern. 

Keep things calm

Maintain a routine to reassure kids and keep a sense of normalcy. Spending time outdoors (while maintaining social distancing) and visiting friends and family members via FaceTime or apps like Wire can help with the feeling of being cooped up. 

Make an effort to control the amount of news and social media about COVID-19 your kids access. A study undertaken at the University of Oregon found that adults who spent time every day checking statistics on COVID-19 deaths were more anxious and more likely to believe themselves in danger. Children who happen to see this data frequently during the day as their parents or older siblings check the stats may experience the same increase in anxiety.

Keep up with healthy habits as much as possible — for your health as well as your kids’ health. Your children may be enjoying more family time than usual, exploring new activities around the house, and learning new things. Keep the lines of communication open and help them understand that the pandemic won’t last forever.