For many children, the ongoing pandemic is an overwhelming event. Those who have yet to experience anything on such a large scale as this are understandably concerned, anxious, and afraid of what the future may hold for themselves and their families. It is important to be open and honest with children, even when the subject matter is complicated, but parents and guardians should also strive to temper debilitating anxieties about the virus so that children can function on a day to day basis.
Speak to Their Experiences
By now, children have likely heard information about the pandemic from multiple sources. From school administrators and teachers to family members and news media, children have been exposed to various accounts, data analytics, and even misinformation. In order to not only correct false information a child has heard and repeated as well as relay facts in a supplemental fashion, it is important for caregivers to address the topic in a way that will make sense to a child. Drawing on a child’s previous experiences with illnesses can help them understand what the coronavirus can do to an individual; similarly, referencing the prowess of healthcare workers in treating patients with illnesses like the flu or COVID-19 and drawing parallels between them can help children understand that, while the coronavirus is a threat, there are ways to avoid, contain, and recover.
By likening the virus to something the child has already experienced in some capacity, caregivers can alleviate any unrealistic or damaging anxieties a child might feel.
Continue the Conversation
Keep in mind that one conversation is probably not enough to keep children calm and understanding, especially as the pandemic continues to impact the world. As children inevitably encounter new information about the pandemic, their thoughts will change, leading to new fears, concerns, and ideas about the coronavirus. To make sure children are informed and are not experiencing unnecessary anxiety, caregivers should periodically check in and carefully raise the topic of the pandemic, after the initial discussion. During these follow-up conversations, adults may choose to address the local impact of the coronavirus, and community responses (to promote positivity), as well as recent global or national developments. Adults may also find it beneficial to directly address any misconceptions or confusion that children have expressed to clarify what is right and what is not.
Encourage Healthy Habits
One of the best ways to dispel coronavirus concerns is by explaining to children how they can avoid contracting the virus and how they can help others stay healthy as well. Explaining the benefits of thorough handwashing, social distancing, and mask-wearing are all helpful pursuits that should be easy to convey to children of all ages. By giving children a sense of control and security over their own actions, caregivers can help children feel more confident when learning or hearing about the pandemic.
Use Verified ResourcesIf it seems that having these conversations may be challenging in certain circumstances or due to various factors, caregivers can rely on resources like this helpful comic from NPR to help explain the pandemic to children. With this specific comic, the creator encourages the children reading it to ask trusted adults if they have questions or concerns while also presenting crucial information in an easily-digestible way.