As COVID-19 spreads, so does the anxiety surrounding a pandemic. In this post I am going to give some ideas on how to talk to your kids about COVID-19. While this is stressful for adults, imagine how kids must feel? They can’t always understand the context as well as adults and some things they may be hearing, may sound downright frightening. Kids are also a lot less likely to share their feelings of stress and may bottle it up. This may come out in acting out behavior, distancing, ect.
How to talk about COVID-19 with your kids
Regardless of how much news we have going on in our homes, we can all feel this nervous energy in the air pretty much everywhere. While this is all new- the idea of quarantine on this level, the virus itself- there are some things we can do to help our kids process and stay well during the COVID-19 pandemic.
First, it is important to note that there are a few things you can do to give yourself the best odds and the least amount of battle damage during this outbreak. Each of these has suggestions on how to share these items with your kids.
- Stay updated
- Stay calm (as possible)
- Explain facts
- Explain how we can help others and ourselves
4 things to include when you talk to your kids about COVID-19
1. Stay updated
News, news, news. Information is great, but the media frenzy is NOT. For me, I am watching snippets of the latest released info on spreading, infections, and travel recommendations. But it stops there. I don’t need to listen to hours upon hours of news and media tales of each infection and the dangerous possibilities of how bad this can get.
More than ever, during a crisis of this level we need to prepare, yet stay in the now with our minds. Yes, imagining a worst-case scenario is a good way to come up with preparedness ideas (I do it!) but living in this mindset constantly is no good for anyone. It also makes it harder to talk to your kids about COVID-19 because you will be in constant fight or flight mode.
Talking with your kids: At your discretion, you can obviously let your kids listen to the news reports. In our home, I am not doing this, because the reports are live and I don’t know how they are going to present the information. Some reporters can terrify grown adults with their delivery, while others are more level-toned. Because of this uncertainty, I choose to listen to the updates throughout the day as needed.
My kids already know pretty much what’s happening from our initial discussion, and when it comes to what they need to be doing, nothing has changed. We already homeschool, eat well, and take vitamins- the only thing that is different is our extracurriculars. So why can’t we go here or there is usually what sparks another discussion about what is happening with the virus.
In short, I’m going with staying updated, adjust my actions as needed, offering updated news to kids when they ask- backed up with facts and ending with the reasons how you are all staying safe and well.
2. Stay Calm
This one is tough folds, I get it. I went to the grocery store yesterday and it was like a scene from after the zombies hit in a movie. Everything was pristinely stocked in the produce aisles (bc no one is making a salad, they are stockpiling non-perishables). But then there would be a weird area where there were just completely wiped out shelves. My store had plenty of toilet paper, but ZERO bleach wipes. Like 8 shelves, nada.
Possibly the hardest part about the grocery store was the energy. It feels like you are covered with a blanket of anxiety everywhere you go. So, let’s talk about how we can deal with this. Know that you know the facts- of course, to the extent that they are being shared with us.
Know that you are doing what you can to be cautious and staying on top of your and your family’s wellness. One of the most important things to remember in this area is that people with good immune systems are not really getting hit with the full extent of this virus where the real risk of mortality comes in.
Practice whatever kind of self-care works for you on the daily. Read a book, watch Netflix. Do a face mask. Take a mom shower after the kids go to bed and use allllll the hot water. Whatever helps you stay centered, do that.
For your kids: your calm demeanor is the biggest thing that helps them stay calm. You are an adult. Kids look to you and your behavior as a guide and as a reading of what is really happening. If you are visibly tense all day, they will feel it. And they will believe that the situation is dangerous, even if you say otherwise.
So what about times when you just are very tense? Two ways to deal with this: You can sit down with your kids and explain that everything that is going on you are feeling anxious and ask them if they are too. Then, walk through steps to stay calm together-you are doing the things you are supposed to be doing and everything is OK. And/or you can take 10 minutes throughout the day to do whatever you need to reset yourself. Have a tea, take some lemon balm, listen to music, or do a busy work task, whatever works.
3. Knowing facts and explaining them to your kids
This is similar to the news information but it is more about answering kids’ questions with facts. But, not just regurgitated facts from the news. Give them only what they are asking for. Kids, differing by development stages, of course, are varying levels of egocentric view of the world. Meaning, they are mostly concerned with, “how will this affect me? Or “how can this affect me and the people and things that are important to me.” Let’s be honest, in crisis, adults can say the same. But, unlike adults, kids are most likely only focused on these two viewpoints and not also concerned with will I lose my job, will the economy collapse, ect.
For the most part, kids want to be assured that they (and you) are doing everything possible to secure safety and health and that they are going to be OK. Don’t shy away from the power of those words to a young person- or an adult for that matter! Sometimes nothing feels more comforting than hearing “it will be ok” from a person you can trust. So I would definitely end convos about COVID-19 with that sentiment. Because after all, if we are doing all we can to protect ourselves and our communities, it will be OK.
4. Talk about how we can help ourselves and others during COVID-19 (or really any similar situation)
No, we don’t have to turn everything into a learning experience, but as homeschoolers (and parents in general) we are always keeping an eye out for those teachable moments. A pandemic like COVID-19 is one of those times. We can talk to our kids about COVID-19 and discuss the ways we can protect ourselves and help others in our community during a crisis like this one.
Talking with your kids: One big topic we can discuss is how to protect ourselves by practicing social distancing to reduce the spread of the virus. (it can be helpful for kids to understand the “why” of social distancing and closings of public places and events. Talking about adhering to these suggestions we can not only protect ourselves from getting sick but also reduce the spread of the virus so we are in turn helping those who are more susceptible to the effects of COID-19, such as the elderly and those with pre-existing conditions.
This is also a good opportunity to talk about preparedness in general. If you grow your own food, use herbs for health care, or participate in sustainability or survivalist practices this is a great time to emphasize how knowing these skills is helpful for your family and the community who may have needs.
To sum up how to talk to your kids about COVID-19, I think it really comes down to staying in tune with what your kids and you are feeling throughout each day. In situations like this, I find a combination of preparedness mixed with present-mindfulness to create the most calm. This isn’t easy, so remember to reach out to friends or family (this includes friends who are far away if you don’t have a local village like me!)
If you would like any suggestions for how to make a whole lot of family time more fun and less stressful feel free to reach out to me here in the comments or on social media- either in messenger, DM or on the page. I will create a thread on the Facebook page for this. I’ve got ideas for activities, recipes, getting outside, and how to work remotely with your kids at home.
Stay safe everyone and stay in touch. If you know other parents who might find this useful, please share it with them- we are all in this together!