How to talk to your child about the coronavirus (COVID-19)

03-23-2020Counselor's Corner

How to talk to students (via the National Association of School Psychologists)

Elementary school age students: These students need brief, simple information that balance COVID-19 facts with the reassurances that places like school and homes are safe and that adults there to keep them safe and healthy. Give simple examples of everyday steps to keep themselves healthy such as washing hands.

Middle school age students: These students will be more vocal with their questions and wondering if they are truly safe. They may need help separating reality from rumors. Discuss the public efforts to prevent germs and diseases spreading.

Points to emphasize when talking to children:

  1. Adults at home, school and in the community are taking care of your health and safety.
  2. Not everyone will get the coronavirus.
  3. It is important to trust other people and not jump to conclusions.
  4. There are many things to do to help stay healthy and avoid getting others sick:
    1. Avoid close contact with those who are sick; stay home when you are sick.
    2. Cover your cough or sneeze into your elbow or with a tissue, which is to be thrown away immediately.
    3. Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
    4. Wash your hands often with soap and water (for 20 seconds - sing the ABCs to help time this)
    5. Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces around the home.

Points to keep in mind

  1. Stay calm and reassuring - With the amount of misinformation and confusion surrounding this disease, children need to be met with truth and support. Let your child express how they feel and help reframe their concerns in an appropriate perspective. Avoid blaming others and instead, focus on true facts stated in an age-appropriate manner.
  2. Make yourself available - Children will want to talk about this and may need extra attention to talk about their concerns, fears and questions. Tell them you love them and give them plenty of extra attention. Listen to your children’s cues and invite them to talk to you as often as they need.
  3. Monitor social media and television viewing - Limit their time watching the news and having constant updates, as it may be upsetting to many. Clarify that many stories online may be based on rumors or untrue information.
  4. Be honest - Telling your child facts about the disease may help reduce anxiety. In the absence of factual information, children may imagine situations far worse than reality. Don’t ignore their concerns but explain how the disease can be transmitted and how to protect themselves. For example, “It is thought that the corona virus can be given when a person who is sick is in close contact with someone and sneezes or coughs. That’s why it is important to wash our hands with soap and water and cough into the bend of our elbows.”
  5. Know the symptoms - Fever, shortness of breath and a cough are the most common symptoms according to the CDC.
  6. Maintain your normal routine - Keeping a regular schedule can not only be reassuring but promote better physical and mental health.

Extra Resources

  1. Comic explaining to children what exactly COVID-19 is, how they can help prevention and how to handle the information they are seeing
  2. BrainPOP has lots of great activities and videos on various social and emotional topics, such as emotions, courage and overall mental health.
  3. Mayo Clinic’s discovering gratitude - a journaling and community project focused on promoting positive thought and mental health
Crayola free coloring pages - everyone needs a brain break! Various subjects such as Disney, plants and animals and even adult coloring pages.