How To Talk To Your Children About Coronavirus
We have all been inundated with information regarding COVID-19 and wonder what will happen next. All of this has caused significant change to our daily routines and it is completely outside of our control.
Seeing patients and talking about immune support and how to keep my patients healthy during this time is an increasing topic. But with my background in Child Development, I couldn’t forget to think about how all of this is affecting our patients’ mental health.
What are these little minds thinking and how should parents address their child’s concerns? Depending on our child’s ages and developmental stage, they are going to have totally different understandings of what Coronavirus means to them.
So here are some things to keep in mind as we navigate our way through this time.
Parents should monitor their own reactions. Be attentive of your emotional response through tone and facial expressions. Children pick up on how their parents are feeling which can heighten a child’s anxiety. Save our anxiety talk for other adults and show our children that we are calm, attentive and approachable.
Ask your children what they already know. Ask broad, open ended questions. This way you can correct any misperceptions. For example, ask your child “What do you know about Coronavirus”? Then you can expand on what they know by using simple language without so many details.
Focus on the positive by talking and emphasizing to children about the things being done to help and improve the situation. A few topics to stress are:
Most of those infected have mild symptoms
Decisions to cancel events are so that people don’t get sick as much
People are working together to take care of each other.
Watch for changes in your children. If behavior regresses, mood changes, appetite significantly decreases and/or sleep changes. If these things are noticed, this could mean your child needs more support.
Children are concrete and literal thinkers. This can lead to misperceptions and misunderstandings. For example, some children have stated that because this started in China, it is their fault. Finding out what is going on in our child’s mind allows parents to correct any biases or assumptions a child may have made.
All of this information applies not only to Cornoavirus but any tragic or life changing event. I encourage you to read the book, Something Bad Happened: A Kid’s Guide to Coping With Events in the News, by Dr. Dawn Huebner, Ph.d. There is also additional information on this topic at https://www.pbs.org/parents/thrive/how-to-talk-to-your-kids-about-coronavirus
Please reach out to us if you have additional questions or concerns.
We are here to help you and your little ones.