Talking With Your Children About COVID-19

You may feel stressed and anxious about COVID-19 and so may your children. Try these strategies to talk with them and help them cope.

Define what COVID-19 is:

COVID-19 is the short name for “coronavirus disease 2019.” It is a new germ (virus) that has made a lot of people sick. Doctors and other health professionals are working hard to keep people healthy. 

Explain how it spreads:

COVID-19 typically spreads from person to person, mainly through small droplets that come out of an infected person's mouth or nose when they cough, sneeze or talk. These droplets can land in another person's mouth or nose. The virus is most likely to spread when a person who is sick comes within six feet of someone. Even if someone isn’t sick or doesn’t show symptoms, they can still spread the virus if they’re infected. 

Discuss with your children how they can help slow the spread of COVID-19:

  • Stay home more. Tell your children that they can protect their friends and neighbors by staying home as much as possible. Encourage them to keep their body and mind active by reading, playing board games and playing outside safely.
  • Practice physical distancing. Avoid close contact with people who don’t live with you, even if they don't appear to be sick. Pretend there's a bike between you and the person you're standing near, keeping about 6 feet apart from each other.
  • Practice good hand hygiene. When you wash your hands, it takes about 20 seconds for soap and water to kill the germs. Encourage your children to sing the entire "Happy Birthday" song twice (about 20 seconds) to make sure their hands get clean. If soap and water aren’t immediately available, use hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol. 
  • Cover your cough and sneeze. Cough and sneeze in your elbow or a tissue and wash your hands to prevent the spread of germs. 
  • Don’t touch your face. This includes your eyes, nose and mouth. If you do touch your face, wash your hands again.
  • Wear a face covering if you do go out. Face masks are not recommended for children under the age of 2. For more information on masking, click here. 

Explain to your children what happens if they get COVID-19:

  • What symptoms do people experience? Symptoms of COVID-19 include fever or chills, cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, fatigue, muscle or body aches, headache, new loss of taste or smell, sore throat, congestion or runny nose, nausea or vomiting and diarrhea. 
  • Most people who get COVID-19 will be able to recover at home. Explain to your children that if they get COVID-19, they will need to stay at home and away from others unless they need to visit the doctor for medical care. If possible, designate a bedroom and bathroom for only your child to use while they are sick.
Morning Routine_

Click the image for a printable PDF version 

Steps you can take to help your children cope (per the CDC):

  • Remain calm. Remember that children will react to both what you say and how you say it. They will pick up cues from the conversations you have with them and with others.
  • Reassure children that they are safe. Let them know it is okay if they feel upset. Share with them how you deal with your own stress so that they can learn how to cope from you.
  • Make yourself available to listen and to talk. Let children know they can come to you when they have questions.
  • Avoid language that might blame others and lead to stigma.
  • Pay attention to what children see or hear on television, radio, or online. Consider reducing the amount of screen time focused on COVID-19. Too much information on one topic can lead to anxiety.
  • Provide information that is truthful and appropriate for the age and developmental level of the child. Talk to children about how some stories on COVID-19 on the Internet and social media may be based on rumors and inaccurate information. Children may misinterpret what they hear and can be frightened about something they do not understand.
  • Teach children everyday actions to reduce the spread of germs. Remind children to wash their hands frequently and stay away from people who are coughing or sneezing or sick. Also, remind them to cough or sneeze into a tissue or their elbow, then throw the tissue into the trash.
  • If school is open, discuss any new actions that may be taken at school to help protect children and school staff.

Other ways to help your children manage stress:

  • Keep healthy routines. Make sure your children eat a healthy and balanced diet, exercise often and have a regular sleep schedule. 
  • Make sure your children stay connected with their friends and family members. Use Facetime, Zoom, Skype or other virtual communication options.
  • Focus on new ways to spend your time. Remind them all the good life has to offer and help them keep positive thoughts. 

For more information, visit: 

https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/faq.html#Children

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/coronavirus/in-depth/kids-covid-19/art-20482508

https://www.healthychildren.org/English/health-issues/conditions/COVID-19/Pages/default.aspx