How do I talk to my children about the coronavirus?
Young children typically look to their parents in novel situations to gauge when something is safe, or not. Start by doing the best you can to be calm, even if you don’t feel that way on the inside. As much as is possible, develop a daily routine. Consistency and familiarity breeds comfort. Answer your preschooler’s questions with simple, factual statements, focused mainly on what you are doing to stay safe. Use words that they are familiar with. Most preschoolers will have been told to wash their hands after going the bathroom and before meals; you might also have said it helps get rid of germs. So, for COVID-19, you might say – “we need to wash our hands to help get rid of germs”. Even if they don’t understand the concept of germs, if it is a word they have heard before, it should help. They don’t need all details, a discussion of risks, or to learn about flattening the curve – they are too young to understand something as abstract as a pandemic. It’s ok to say you are scared, but you need to remind them (and yourself) of the things that you are doing to stay safe and healthy. A child might be able to sense your stress, but more importantly, they can also feel secure with you as a parent.
This post was written in the Spring of 2020. Please follow your local guidelines and advice from family health care providers for appropriate, current coronavirus safety measures.