How to Talk to your Child about COVID-19
The kids have returned to school with their masks on, seated at their desks and safe distances apart, hand sanitizers tucked safely in their knapsacks.
By now, taking steps to protect themselves and their classmates from the coronavirus has become an established part of their daily routines.
Continue the conversation on COVID-19 with your kids
However, as remarkably resilient as kids are, they’re likely to have lingering questions and concerns related to the virus that may be causing them to feel anxious, even stressed. As parents, we can help children make sense of what they hear in a way that is honest, accurate, and minimizes anxiety or fear.
Learn from leading child health professionals
We sought out the advice of the world’s leading health experts to help you continue to have the conversation you had with your kids on COVID-19 before they headed back to the classroom. Here’s what our sources* had to say:
Offer Comfort — and Honesty
Kids worry more when they’re kept in the dark. Welcome their questions and always answer them truthfully. If your child asks about something and you don't know the answer, say so. It’s okay if you can’t answer everything; being available to your child is what matters.
Listen and answer their questions with facts in a way that they can understand. You know your children best.
Set the tone. Kids know when parents worry. So, when you talk about coronavirus and the news, speak calmly and reassuringly. Let your kids know that it's normal to feel stressed out at times. Everyone does.
Give kids space to share their fears.
Encourage them to express their feelings, letting them know that it's ok to be upset. Tell them how you deal with your own stress so that they can learn how to cope from you.
Find Out What They Already Know
There’s lots of stories going around about COVID-19 – not all of them true. Pay attention to how your kids get news and information, especially older kids who go online.
Point them to trustworthy, age-appropriate content so they don't end up finding sources that scare them or have incorrect information. Better still, watch the news with your kids so you can filter what they hear and put news stories in context
Follow your child's lead.
Some kids may want to spend time talking. But if your kids don't seem interested or don't ask a lot of questions, that's OK. Don’t volunteer too much information, as this may be overwhelming.
Help your Kids Feel in Control
Empower your kids and teach them that getting lots of sleep and washing their hands well and often can help them stay strong. Be a good role model and let your kids see you taking safety precautions - and practicing smart health habits!
Talk about all the things that are happening to keep people safe and healthy. Young kids might be reassured to know that hospitals and doctors are prepared to treat people who get sick. Older kids might be comforted to know that scientists are working to develop a vaccine.
Kids and teens often worry more about family and friends than themselves. For example, if kids hear that older people are more likely to be seriously ill, they might worry about their grandparents. Let them call or video chat with older relatives to help put them at ease about their loved ones.
Check in regularly
Frequently talk with your kids to see how they're coping and offer them regular updates as more is learned about COVID-19 and the precautions families should take.
Remind them you care and you’re always available to listen and to talk. Encourage them to come to you with any new questions. This builds trust.
Keep the conversation going
Health Canada has great COVID-19 resources for parents and children, including a page specifically for kids that tells them important things they need to know about the virus. Take the time to read this page and other resource together.
You can also use your conversations as a way to help kids learn about their bodies, like how the immune system fights disease. Then end them on a positive note by doing something fun as a family.
By having honest and accurate discussion with your kids about COVID-19, you can help them understand what's happening, relieve some of their fears, make them feel safe and help them cope.
Though it’s tempting to reassure them that everything will be fine, even if you don’t know yourself, teaching children how to tolerate uncertainty is key to reducing anxiety and helping them build resilience.
World Health Organization
Child Mind Institute
Expert help is available
If your child is experiencing stress or anxiety related to COVID-19 and is struggling to cope, know that expert help may be just a click or call away. Learn about the mental health services and supports we offer members and their families here.