How to talk to children about COVID-19, according to the CDC
Being honest in an age-appropriate manner can help children make sense of the pandemic and all its changes
Apr 24, 2020
With all the news and developments on COVID-19, the current pandemic will always make it into our daily conversations. While adults can discuss the more complicated implications of the issue, children will focus on just the basics–that the coronavirus can make them sick. It’s possible that they’ll constantly worry for themselves and their loved ones. On the other hand, others may not grasp the gravity of the situation and still insist on going outdoors.
Parents and other trusted adults have to take it upon themselves to protect children from any emotional or physical strain this pandemic may cause. To properly and effectively discuss the the pandemic and the current state of society to children, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has created a guide to help adults have conversations with children and ways on how to avoid the disease.
Calmly engage in conversation with them
Children will react to both what you say and how you talk about the topic. If your behavior may be hostile or anxious, children may mirror this behavior throughout the pandemic. Make sure that you are calm and collected while explaining to them. Also remember to always make time for their questions and musings in order to make them feel included.
Be honest and accurate
It’s okay to skip the details that may be too heavy, but you must remain honest about the situation. Explain to them what is accurate and what are rumors, and differentiate right actions from wrong. Present to them the facts of current events and guide them in making conscious and empathetic opinions.
Clarify the facts
Children are inclined to ask a lot of questions, so it’s best to be prepared with accurate information. Research on facts and developments on COVID-19 and the community quarantine, how the medical field and government is helping, and what we can do to help them help us. It also comes in handy to have engaging tips on how to stay healthy such as singing the “Happy Birthday” song twice while washing hands or planning healthy, delicious meals with them.
Avoid discriminatory language
Children are impressionable and if you show any signs of discrimination towards others regarding COVID-19, they may do the same. It’s important to make it clear that the disease shouldn’t be associated with a race or ethnicity, and that those who have been infected by it should not be discriminated. Do not make assumptions about who has the virus or not without definite facts.
Monitor what they watch
Without proper guidance, what children see or hear on TV and social media can greatly affect their views, as well as incite fear and anxiety. To stop this, the CDC advises parents and guardians to limit the amount of screentime, as well be ready to explain sensitive or serious content.
Create safety and cleanliness habits
To avoid COVID-19, people have to consistently do something we learned as toddlers: wash our hands. While on lockdown, it is the right time to let children build a habit of proper hygiene. Teach them how to wash their hands properly and consistently remind them to do so. The habit of using a tissue when sneezing or coughing then throwing it in the trash should also be taught.
Header photo by CDC on Unsplash
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