How do you explain a global pandemic to kids?
Well, that’s certainly a question we never thought we’d try to address in a post, but here we are.
As the reality of COVID-19 sets in with all of us (and seems to change every day), it’s hard enough to come to grips to it with yourself, let alone your kids. But, right now, as always, our kids are looking to us for safety, comfort, love, and answers.
And, because we are wondering how to speak to our kids about COVID-19 just like you are, we got tips from Florida International University mental health counselor Yasmin Rey and Becky Bailey of Conscious Discipline. Read on for their top tips on how to address COVID-19 with kids.
How to Speak to Your Kids About COVID-19
1. Don’t avoid the topic. You don’t need to talk about it ALL the time, but it’s real, and it needs to be discussed in an age-appropriate way so that your kids know what’s going on, Rey says.
2. Pay attention to how you’re feeling. Bailey says that young children co-regulate with trusted adults and older children feed off our internal states. So, check in with yourself. How are you feeling? “Practice active calming by taking three deep breaths when you feel yourself becoming frustrated, fearful, angry, or desperate,” Bailey recommends.
3. Reassure your child by providing factual information. Be honest with them, Rey says, but also …
4. Avoid giving too much information. Use the simplest terms possible in an age-appropriate way.
5. Limit news exposure. Do this for television and social media, Rey says.Try to watch the news in private and not have it on in the background. Limit social media time for both you and your kids, Bailey says.
6. Show empathy and warmth. Bailey says to focus on statements like, “You’re safe. You can handle this. We will get through this together,” instead of dismissing with comments like, “Everything’s okay,” or “It’s not something you need to worry about.”
7. Let your kids choose activities that bring them joy. It’s important for them to have a sense of control, Rey says.
8. Keep a routine. Because our days have been turned upside down without warning, Bailey says that it’s essential to create a new normal. Families with older children can work together to co-create a new daily schedule, while parents of younger children can create a schedule for them. “Plan it, draw it, label it, post it somewhere obvious, and refer to it often so children know what to expect,” she says.
9. Continue the conversation. As the situation continues to change, keep talking about it, Rey says.
More Resources on Parenting During COVID-19
- COVID-19: Five Helpful Responses for Families
- Parents: This Is NOT Meant to Be Our Finest Hour
- Mindfulness Practices to Get Through Co-Working With Your Family
- Why Can’t I Go to School?
How have your conversations with your kids gone? Most recently my 5-year-old called the coronavirus a “poopy butt,” which seemed accurate. –Jenn