It is important to talk to your kids about COVID-19, even if you don’t think they understand much. At first, I didn’t think there was any reason to discuss the coronavirus with my toddler, but then he wanted to go to the park to play. I explained that we could not go, because of the virus. “I am sorry,” I told him, “Once the virus is over we can go.” This came up a few more times in different situations and I pretty much repeated the same thing to him. I realized that I did have to explain that right now, going outside can make us or other people sick and we need to stay inside as much as possible to be safe.
Here are the tips that I recommend when talking to your children about COVID-19:
Keep It Simple
When I explain things about the coronavirus to my young son, I keep the dialogue simple. Children understand very straightforward language best. Being able to explain a concept to a child is the true test of your understanding in fact. It’s not always easy to take something complex and put it into simple terms, but putting in some mental effort to do so will make a big difference.
I also do not get into more detail than necessary. Less is more when you are discussing overwhelming and scary information, especially when it comes to young kids. Give only the information necessary to get the point across. In my situation, my son initially accepted my answer that we couldn’t go outside, so there was no need for me to elaborate. When he started wanting to know why, that’s when I explained a little background, but I still stuck with the basics.
Utilize Empathy and Try to Relate
Kids are comforted when adults understand their plight, even if they can’t fix it. Agreeing with your child that this situation totally sucks can help them process and make them feel heard. Sometimes I talk to my son about things that we can do once the virus is over, to help keep us both positive.
Practice Daily Self-Care to Reduce Stress
These times are hard for everyone. We are all under stress, whether it’s financial, the pressures of trying to work from home with children at home, or the anxiety of having to go to work and risk exposure. That said it is super important to not put these stresses onto our children. Instead, we can take even 10-15 minutes of quiet time to ourselves each day to destress.
Try to Make the Best of the Situation
We are all in this together. All we can do is make the best of it. In my case, my husband and I let our schedule and day go a little bit. Our son stays up later, sleeps in longer, doesn’t eat at set times, or nap around his usual time. We do our best to roll with what the days bring. And yes, our son watches more screen time. Mainly because we need to our sanity, but also because sometimes we just need to get work done. So be gentle on yourself and drop the self-judgment. We will get through this, and we will figure out how to talk to our children about it as we go.