As fears over the coronavirus (COVID-19) grow, it is becoming imperative for parents to acknowledge and discuss it with their kids. Children may be feeling anxious and stressed about the situation, so staying calm and addressing it head on will help your kids, especially those with special needs, cope with their changing environment.
For parents who need a bit of guidance, here are 7 tips on how to talk to your kids about COVID-19.
Learn what your kid already knows
The first step to addressing COVID-19 with your kids is to find out what they already know. Doing so will give you a chance to learn if they’re hearing any wrong information and alleviate any arising fears.
During this process, make sure to ask questions that are appropriate to your kid’s age level. When talking to older kids, ask questions such as, “Are people you know talking about coronavirus? What are they saying?” For younger children, change your approach and ask questions like, “Have you heard grownups talking about a new sickness that’s going around?”
Avoid placing the blame
When talking to your kids, it is important to avoid stereotyping any one group of people as the party responsible for the virus. Children are susceptible to the way parents respond in the faces of crises so set a good example for them during these times. Any negative comments made toward others by your children or other family members should be stopped. Take time to explain why these comments are inappropriate to your children.
Be honest and reassuring
As you approach the topic of COVID-19, focus on helping your children feel safe while still being truthful. Kids can easily pick up on when parents worry. So, when you talk about the coronavirus and any news, speak honestly and calmly to reduce any anxiety that your children may be feeling. It is also important to give them the opportunity to express their concerns or fears. It’s natural for kids to worry so reassure them that kids don’t seem to get as sick as adults.
One tip is to not offer any more detail than what your child is interested in. For example, if your kids ask about school closings, address their questions. But if the topic doesn’t come up, there is no need to raise and discuss it.
If your child asks about something and you don’t know the answer, be truthful and say so. Use this as an opportunity to find out the answer together. Head to official sites like Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for up-to-date, reliable information about coronavirus (COVID-19) to avoid headlines about deaths and other scary information.
Make sure your explanations are age appropriate
Explanations about the coronavirus and any news should be tailored according to age. Young elementary school children only need brief, simple information about COVID-19 with appropriate reassurances that they will be safe and that the adults are there to help keep them healthy.
On the other hand, older children will be more vocal about the COVID-19 and whether they are safe. So, provide honest, in-depth, and accurate information to help them separate reality from rumors and regain a sense of control. In addition, discuss what the community leaders are doing to prevent germs from spreading and what steps they can take to help.
Help your kids feel in control
It is normal for kids to feel nervous and stressed during times like these. Therefore, giving them guidance on how they can prevent infection will reduce anxiety and help them feel in control. Teach them basic hygiene practices such as washing their hands for at least 20 seconds, sneezing or coughing into elbows, not sharing food or drinks, and giving fist or elbow bumps instead of handshakes. Take it a step further and model it with them to set a good example.
Also, encourage them to be healthy by eating a balanced diet, staying hydrated, getting enough sleep, and exercising regularly. Explaining that this will help them develop a strong immune system to fight off the illness will motivate them take control and be active.
Keep checking in with your kid
Once you’ve talked to your kids, check in regularly to see how they’re feeling. Remind them that they have someone they can turn to. Creating an open line of communication will help them feel reassured and protected in the face of the coronavirus.
Also, take this time to tell them you love them and give them plenty of affection. This will work to reduce any anxiety and stress they may be feeling.
Children are susceptible to their surroundings and having a safe space can bring relief and stability in the face of a rapidly changing environment. We Rock the Spectrum Kid’s Gym – Fort Myers is here to be that safe space! Our facility is offering FREE Break Time Care for children of all healthcare professionals, first responders, grocery store workers, and essential emergency personnel fighting on the front lines. Give us a call today at 239-362-3378 or 612-386-2354 to reserve your Break Time Care services. We are taking limited capacity at this time.