How to Talk to Your Kids About the Coronavirus (and Other Related Topics)

By Anne Peters, LMFT

Hello and welcome back! Here we are, still managing the difficulties that come along with COVID-19. We have talked for several weeks now about how it is impacting us, our partners, and our families. But what about your children? This pandemic has impacted the younger generations in more ways than one – the last several months of school cancelled, high school graduations gone virtual, and social gatherings no longer an option. As adults, we are able to make sense of it all (to the best of our abilities), but how can we help children to understand what is going on, without making it seem really, really scary?

1. Utilize stories/videos: Bless all of the creative folks in the world who have created such important resources for our kiddos. Two of my favorites are Sesame Street Town Hall on Coronavirus and Coronavirus: A Book for Children. Here’s the link to the FREE children’s book. It’s illustrated by Axel Scheffler, who also illustrated The Gruffalo series. It’s geared towards ages 5 – 9 and does a great job explaining aspects of COVID-19 in a kid-friendly light.

2. Encourage and allow open conversations: This is key! We want our children to feel completely comfortable coming to us with any questions or concerns. This is unchartered territory for them, too. Check in with each child throughout the day to see what thoughts are swimming through their head. Therapist tip: Instead of “How are you doing?” say “Tell me what this is like for you.” It opens up the conversation! Be honest with them while staying kid-friendly, and always tie in words of encouragement (ex. “We are all in this together.” “I am here for you.” “I am proud of the choices you’ve been making.”)

3. Expect different behaviors as they process and adjust to new norm: As adults, when we feel stressed, we may be more easily agitated, more tired, or more emotional. The same is true for children! Don’t be surprised if you notice a behavior change during this time. Offer support and encourage appropriate coping skills.

4. Model an appropriate response: It’s true. Children learn a lot of their behaviors from their parents. This means if you are encouraging them to wash their hands well, show them that you wash your hands well. If you want them to talk about their feelings, then talk about your feelings! It’s also important to tie in positives throughout each day. This will help them learn skills to be able to find a silver lining in the midst of really hard times.

5. Set up virtual playdates: Perhaps what feels the hardest to children during this time is being unable to see their friends and do their sports/activities. This is where you can step in! Set up some virtual playdates. This would be a great time to even set up “themed” playdates. You can get so creative with this and the joy on your child’s face will show you it’s all worth it.

6. Validate, validate, validate: Let’s be real. Being in the midst of a worldwide pandemic feels hard. If your child is having big feelings because they are missing a sports season, birthday parties, or time with their teacher, validate that. A simple “I hear you, and I’m sorry this is happening. I understand why you are upset” can feel really reassuring.

As mentioned in previous blogs, we are here for you. If you or your children are needing additional support during this difficult time, please reach out to us at LSI. Our clinical team is ready to support you via telehealth so you can stay in the safety and comfort of your own home. Hang in there, everyone. We are thinking of you!

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