Talking to your children about COVID-19

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Many people are feeling stressed or overwhelmed with what they are hearing about COVID-19. Your child may also be feeling anxious about what is happening around them – and that is normal. There are things you can do to help alleviate this stress.

Have honest conversations

Chances are your child has seen a story on the news, read an article or heard other people talk about COVID-19.

  • Put news into context. If they ask, explain that all the activity that is going on is to keep us all safe. Even though they might be hearing about deaths, it is rare. Watch the news with your kids so you can filter the information and shape how they respond, with your own response. Your comments matter and how calm or worried you are also matters.
  • Ask questions. Understand what they know. Is your child and their friends talking about it? Who is their source? If your child is younger, have they heard their teacher or other adults talk about what is making some people sick. Knowing what they know and think will help you understand how they feel and to correct false assumptions.
  • Answer honestly. Use language appropriate for the age of your child, but they have a right to truthful information about what is going on. If there are things you do not know, tell them that. Focus on what you do know and, if possible, work together to find out what you do not know.

Keep the conversation going, if you can

Some kids might want to talk a lot about what is happening. Some might not be interested, and that is okay. Others may open up and want to talk about it later. Regardless, if your child wants to talk or not, you should continue to check in with them to see how they are doing and if have any new questions.

Dealing with anxiety

  • Build routines. Anxiety is more likely when all the usual routines seem upside down. With school closures, parents at home and community activities cancelled, new routines must be built. Getting up, getting dressed, a time to play, a time to learn at home, a time to do chores, a time to spend time with you. This is a good opportunity to work with your children in what those routines are, which also helps them feel some sense of control.
  • Let them know that it is normal to feel uneasy or confused at times. Everyone does. Having strong feelings tells us that it is time to talk. Talking will help in many ways and will make things feel less confusing. When your children do talk, listen fully. Being heard is important. Find out what they are worrying about. After hearing everything, let them know you are glad they spoke to you and that you understand what they are saying. You can also remind them of times that they felt uneasy or confused before, and how they got through it. Feelings are always okay, and working through them builds resilience.
  • Limit exposure to news coverage and social media. They may misinterpret what they hear and can be frightened about something they do not understand. Limit news to once a day, when you are able to be there with them. Having news continuously on in the background, may amplify both your fears and theirs. Hearing the same thing multiple times actually makes it seem worse that hearing it once.
  • How they can help. Empower them to help at home, keeping in touch with grandparents and relatives you cannot visit.

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