It can be difficult to know how to talk to your child about COVID-19 – how much should you share with them? What if they ask a question you don’t know the answer to? Starting the conversation is a great first step, as it lets your child know you are someone they can talk to about this. Below, find some tips for having this conversation:
- First, find out what they understand.
- Show that you care and understand, and normalize their feelings. (“I understand why you think that.” “It makes sense that you are worried about COVID-19.” “I am sad that we can’t go on our trip that we had planned.”)
- Be ready with information and answers that are true, appropriate for your child’s age, and consistent.
- Be ready to talk about what COVID-19 is (“COVID-19 is a new kind of virus. It can also be called coronavirus. Viruses can make people sick. COVID-19 makes most people only a little bit sick, but can make a very small group of people really sick. So that’s why everyone is working hard to take care of it.”)
- Be ready to explain things like “physical distancing”. You could say something like, “Physical distancing means that we try to keep a space between people if we go out. We are careful about crowds and what we touch.”
- Look out for your child asking lots of questions, or the same question over and over again. This can be a sign of anxiety. You answering the same question again and again often actually serves to raise, or maintain their anxiety over time. If this happens, try saying something that acknowledges the anxiety (“You’ve asked me that before; you’re really worried. It is stressful. Can you remind me what I said last time when you asked that question?”). Anxiety Canada has some great tips and language for talking to children who might be anxious about COVID-19.
- Point out the people who are helping and plan a way to help others with your child.
- Practice gratitude for what you do have and what you are able to do. Focus on the positive.
- Practice what you are going to say with yourself or another adult ahead of time so when you speak with your child, you are calm and prepared with what you want to say.
- If you don’t know the answer, it’s OK to say you don’t know. As a parent you can always ask others or review some helpful resources and then answer the question later.
These tips are from a blog post written by Dr. Elizabeth Stanford, Head of Psychology for BC Children’s Hospital. For more tips and strategies, you can find her full blog post here.