How to Talk about the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) with Kids

1. Be Informed and Share the Facts. Explain to your children that COVID-19 is a new disease and that we are still learning about it. Researchers are collecting lots of information so we can understand it better and countries are working together and sharing this information. Then explain the following:

  • We know it is passed by touching contaminated objects (after they have been touched) and then our faces or from person-to-person through respiratory droplets (e.g., coughs, sneezes, or talking) if someone is infected.
  • We now know that even people who have no symptoms or don’t look sick might still spread the disease. Therefore, it is important to keep at least six feet away (and show them what a distance of six feet looks like) from other people.
  • Although people have died from this disease, more people have survived, and for those who have gotten the disease, most of them have gotten the milder form.
  • Then, and this is important, once you have provided the facts and answered their questions, move on to step 2 and 3; provide reassurance and focus on what be done.

2. Provide Reassurance. Explain that we have lots of adults trying to figure this out. We have doctors, nurses, paramedics, researchers, and governments working together to help put plans in place and to figure out what will keep us safe. Explain that protective measures are already being put into place to help slow down and stop the spread, such as reduced air travel and closing down public places (e.g., pools, gyms, schools, daycares, etc).

3. Focus on What Can be Done. Then redirect their focus to what can be done to help keep them and your family safe, such as staying home, washing hands frequently, keeping six feet away from others, and wearing a mask (even a homemade one) to help stop spreading germs or as a reminder to not touch one’s face. Although this pandemic is difficult and creating a lot of struggles for many families, help your child to identify and appreciate what positives are occurring. Think about the particulars of your family and any positives that might be occurring. These positives could be range from the ability for you to work from home, less travel time, more free time for kids and having a less busy schedule.
Another positive could even be that this pandemic occurred at a time, in our world, when the technology was in place that we were able to remain connected with our loved ones, friends, and professional supports (e.g., therapists, doctors, teachers, etc). If someone from the family has an “essential job” or is still working onsite at their jobs, then focus on what their employers are doing to keep the staff there safe. If they are frontline, focus on how their family member is able to help others when their help is needed the most. Regardless of how bad any situation can get, there are always things we can be grateful. Teaching you kid to identify these positives and to focus on them during a world pandemic is a perfect opportunity to learn this life long beneficial skill.

For specific strategies on reducing anxiety in kids, please click here.



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