There is quite a bit of information – some true and some fake – on the news and social media about COVID 19. Here are some guidelines for talking with children in a way that is effective and calming.
1. Don’t let your children hear you make light of the situation. It is quite likely they have heard mixed messages about the pandemic, and hearing you joke about it will only add to their confusion.
2. When talking with your children, refrain from dismissing the situation as nothing to worry about. Instead, be calm and honest in your explanation. For a child, a good explanation will not increase fear, but will instead, answer it. By explaining the situation you will be showing them that they can trust you and trust God.
3. Answer their questions and explain COVID 19 matter-of-factly. Give the simplest definition and add to that if you feel your child is old enough to understand more. Here is a good beginning:
COVID 19, sometimes called the coronavirus, is a sickness like a cold that can make some people sicker than others. Healthy people get the virus by being close to sick people. We can also get the germs by touching things and putting our hands near our mouth or nose without washing them. The best thing we can do is wash our hands and send the germs down the drain. To help us keep safe, doctors and others who know about this kind of sickness are asking us to stay at home and away from large groups of people.
Here is a simple video to explain hand-washing:
4. Children will be confused by the changes in routine such as not attending school, childcare, or church or parents staying home from work. When you explain the reasons for this change, begin your explanation with the words “to keep us safe.” These words will help your child to understand that no one is being punished for being sick and that these changes are not a reaction to fear. Being reminded about safety will also help to reduce the anxiety that comes from a change in routine.
5. If you are not sick, look for ways to increase your interaction time with your children. They will likely need more hugs and conversations with you, as this will remind them of what is familiar. Rather than each family member going off to a separate room, think of ways to bring everyone together.
6. Pray together. Talk about how God is bigger than sickness. Remind them that God loves them and cares about them. Point out that the changes in routine, as well as hand washing, are ways that God is keeping us safe.
When we focus on what keeps us safe instead of the danger, and when we teach children that God is in control, we are able to use a challenging situation to cultivate resilience.
God’s blessings to you as you navigate COVID 19. Here is a verse of comfort for you and your children:
In peace I will both lie down and sleep; for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety. Psalm 4:8