Q: How can I talk to my child about the coronavirus (COVID-19) in a developmentally appropriate way?
Children are likely curious as they hear increased public dialogue and experience changes to their daily life regarding COVID-19. The Center for Disease Control has resources for families to talk with their children about the virus.
- Keep answers to questions simple and developmentally appropriate.
- Supportive relationships are key during emergencies and will go a long way with children. Children need to know they are safe. Remind them that you are here to keep them safe.
- Watch for signs of anxiety. Young children may not have the words to express their worry, but you may see signs of it. They may get cranky, be more clingy, have trouble sleeping, or seem distracted. Continue providing reassuring words and try to maintain a normal routine.
Experts at the Early Learning Division also assembled the below tips and resources for supporting children during the emergency.
On Cleaning and Exposure:
- When taking steps to prevent the spread, you can talk about not sharing germs and that is why we wash our hands, use tissues to blow our noses, give people space, etc.
- Children may ask if they will get sick. Answer them honestly. Everyone gets sick. Ask them about the time they had the sniffles or a tummy ache. Remind them that if they get sick, their family will be there to take care of them.
- Give them control. It is also a great time to remind your children of what they can do to help – washing their hands often, coughing into a tissue or their sleeves, cleaning tables or toys, etc.
On Cloth Face Coverings:
- It might be scary for children to wear face coverings, or see the adults around them wearing cloth face coverings.
- If children ask about people wearing face coverings, you can explain:
- Sometimes people wear face coverings to stay safe.
- Sometimes people wear face coverings to be a germ buster.
- Sometimes people wear face coverings when they are sick.
- Allow children to role-play with face coverings. Be creative and use art materials to design face coverings that are for the individual child.
How to Support Children (and Yourself) During the COVID-19 Outbreak, Center on the Development Child
Answering Your Young Child’s Questions About Coronavirus, ZERO TO THREE
Vroom Tips for Families at Home!, VROOM
How Play Helps Kids Navigate Difficult Times, PBS for Parents
How to Support Your Kids through COVID-19, My Oregon News
Parenting Resources, Oregon Parenting Education Collaborative
Children May Be Afraid of Masks. Here’s How to Help., The New York Times
How Will Social Isolation During COVID-19 Affect Our Kids? KQED
Dear Therapist: What’s Your Advice to Parents Whose Kids Are Stuck at Home During the Coronavirus Lockdowns? The Atlantic
Children’s story book released to help children and young people cope with COVID-19, World Health Organization