With all of the news and social media coverage of the COVID-19 pandemic, children may be confused and frightened by what they see and hear. Imaginations run wild on the playground and parents may feel that the topic should remain off-limits to avoid sparking fear in their child more than necessary. But according to The Child Mind Institute, children are actually more fearful when they are kept in the dark.
The following are strategies you can use to talk to your child about coronavirus:
Get Ahead of the Conversation
Don't be afraid to talk to your child about coronavirus and don't wait for them to hear about it from others. Ask them what they may already know and answer their questions in a developmentally appropriate way. By being open, honest and available to them, you will dispel many of their fears.
Model calmness to provide reassurance to your child when talking about the virus. Even though you may be concerned yourself, your child will take their queue from you. If your anxiety is high, consider breathing techniques to calm yourself down before talking to them. Consider also limiting screen time so they are not over-exposed to news outlets reporting on the outbreak and reduce anxiety.
See Also: Should you worry about coronavirus?
Don't Blame Others
Viruses can make anyone sick regardless of race or ethnicity. Use this as an opportunity to educate your child on the need to avoid stereotyping and blaming others for the pandemic. Your child will mimic the language they hear in and outside the home.
"Public health emergencies, such as the outbreak of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), are stressful times for people and communities. Fear and anxiety about a disease can lead to social stigma toward people, places, or things. For example, stigma and discrimination can occur when people associate a disease, such as COVID-19, with a population or nationality, even though not everyone in that population or from that region is specifically at risk for the disease. Stigma can also occur after a person has been released from COVID-19 quarantine even though they are not considered a risk for spreading the virus to others." - Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Teach them about Everyday Hygiene
Good hygiene and proper hand-washing started long before COVID-19 was a thing. Reinforce techniques such as washing hands with soap and water for 20 seconds, sneezing or coughing into tissues or their elbows instead of hands, and staying away from people who are coughing and sneezing. Teach them that everyday actions will reduce the spread of germs.
You know your child best and what is appropriate for them and what they can handle hearing about the outbreak. For additional information and parent resources for talking to your child about coronavirus, visit the National Association of School Psychologists.