Our Education Blogger is a public school teacher with over a decade of experience. She’s an active NEA member and enjoys writing about her experiences in the classroom.
The “discussion.” It’s inevitable. Kids are going to want to talk about Coronavirus-COVID19 (if they haven’t asked you already). This is a difficult, yet important, discussion. So, where do we start the conversation?
The good news- There’s no right or wrong way to approach this topic. However, if you are unsure of how to navigate this conversation, you may find these tips to be helpful.
Your kids naturally react to your emotions. When you are calm, kids are more likely to listen to you and better understand.
Allow time in your schedule simply for talking. Tell your kids you are available if they have questions. Try not to force conversations. When kids are having strong feelings, validate those feelings and talk about them.
Don’t be surprised if you have to repeat information to your kids; any type of crisis can be confusing. Kids need to find ways to feel reassured, and repetition of information can satisfy this need.
Adults want to make scary situations less frightening for kids. It’s natural. But during times of crisis and uncertainty, it is important to be honest with kids. Provide information using age-appropriate language and concepts. Also, remind kids that not everything they read or see is an accurate representation of the truth; we must be mindful consumers of media.
We may struggle to find the answer to the big question: Why? Please find reliable information to help you answer this question (fact sheets from CDC). Don’t use language that blames a group of people or assumes specific races or ethnicities contract or spread the virus.
Know what your kids are watching and hearing on TV and online. It’s always a good idea to limit screen time, especially during a crisis. Too much information can be overwhelming and may cause confusion or anxiety. Also, be aware that kids may be listening to adult conversations.
Revisit proper hygiene routines with them, like:
- Practicing sneezing and coughing into your elbow or tissue
- Washing hands for 30 seconds using soap and hot water (wash before eating or touching food and after blowing nose, coughing, sneezing, or using restroom)
- Hand sanitizing
- Avoiding sick people
Reassure kids that they are safe in their homes. Try to avoid making promises to kids that no one in their families or close circles will contract the virus. Remind them that most people who become sick from COVID19 will recover.
This is a great time to show kids how helpful people can be during times of crisis. Even though many people have been affected by this virus, there are also many people who are reaching out to help. Ask your kids if they’d want to help during this time. Focusing our attention on positive actions can have a tremendous effect on our well-being.
A few ways kids can help:
- Give blood (must be 17 years old)
- Support your local food bank
- Donate money to reputable non-profits
- Write letters or make pictures to send to doctors and nurses at local hospitals
- Send letters or pictures to people living in residential centers (local retirement centers and nursing homes)
One last thing to remember: kids are resilient. The way adults respond and offer support to kids can help mitigate the potential negative emotional consequences related to this traumatic event. Our kids will bounce back, and perhaps even grow, from this experience.
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