How to Explain the COVID-19 Pandemic to Your Child

How to Explain the COVID-19 Pandemic to Your Child

It is important that you take the time to talk to kids. Be open and honest. Listen to your children’s questions and concerns. Every child has a different way of expressing his/her own emotions. Some common tips to help you explain COVID-19 to your children include1-5:

Table of Contents:

  1. Remaining calm and reassuring
  2. Consider your child’s emotional affect
  3. Provide clear, honest and simple explanations
  4. Teach protective actions to reduce the chance that they get sick
  5. Consult resources to help discuss COVID-19 with your children
  6. Additional Information and References

Keywords: Questions, Concerns, Emotions, Teach, Explain

1. Remaining calm and reassuring1-5

  • Children can pick up on and react to cues from your conversations with them and others. Be aware of your own emotional affect as this will have an impact on how your child is able to cope with the information you are providing
  • Take the time to reassure your child that they are safe.
  • Encourage your child to share their feelings – validate these feelings by letting them know it is okay for them to feel upset, worried, or scared. Help your child express these feelings through drawing or other activities.

2. Consider your child’s emotional affect1-5

  • Be aware of your child’s emotional wellbeing when initiating a conversation – pause to consider if your child’s emotional affect will allow them to effectively receive the information you are sharing (if you gauge that this won’t be the case, discuss the possibility of participating in another activity first and then resuming this conversation at a later time)

3. Provide clear, honest and simple explanations1-5

  • Explain what you know about COVID-19 in a way that is developmentally appropriate (i.e. in a way that makes sense to them)
  • Your child will most likely have numerous questions. Take the time to sit down with them and answer these questions. Ensure that your answers are honest and that as much as you are able, you consult reputable sources (such as the CDC, Unicef, WHO, this website) and seek out answers to your child’s questions that you currently may not know
  • Clear up any misunderstandings they may have about the situation. Discuss that some stories they hear in the media may not be true 
  • Update your child regularly on any changes that occur (both changes in your family life, schedule, work, or larger-scale changes from the government that may impact them)
  • Very young children may struggle to fully understand what is happening. (i.e. use simpler terms such as “germs” or “sick” instead of using “virus” or “infection”)
  • Protect your child from unnecessary anxiety or fear by not sharing information that they would not understand. Be mindful of the amount of exposure your child is receiving from media outlets (including social media) that might promote fear or panic and do your best to limit this exposure

4. Teach protective actions to reduce the chance that they get sick1-5

  • Clearly explain safety precautions and good habits for staying healthy
    • Cough and sneeze into your elbow or a tissue
    • Stay away from people who are sick
    • Wash your hands with soap often for at least 10 secs
    • If soap and water are not available, use hand sanitizer
    • Keep your hands away from your mouth, nose and eyes
  • Lead by example and practice the same healthy habits
  • Explain why school closures are occurring by discussing social distancing.

5. Consult resources to help discuss COVID-19 with your children1-5

6. Additional Information and References

  1. World Health Organization. Healthy Parenting. 
  2. Unicef. Tips for parenting during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.
  3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Caring for Children. 
  4. World Health Organization. Mental health and psychosocial considerations during the COVID-19 outbreak. 
  5. The National Child Traumatic Stress Network. Parent/Caregiver Guide to Helping Families Cope With the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19).

Disclaimer: The information regarding COVID-19 is changing constantly as more data become available. The information provided in this website is not meant to replace diabetes healthcare team or public health agencies recommendations, and is intended for information purposes only. Please check with your healthcare providers for any deviations from your care plans.

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