Pandemic. Virus. National Emergency. Quarantine.
These sound like words right out of a Hollywood thriller. But the reality is these words are being repeated over and over every day on the news. On social media. Newspaper headlines. No we aren’t living in a sci-fi movie. We are living in a world with Coronavirus. You probably don’t understand everything yourself, but have you thought about how to talk to your kids about the coronavirus?
Usually my first word of advice during a time like this in which your kids may be scare would be to turn off the news and help keep the bad news away from your kids. This time is a little bit different.
In our state, and any others, school has been cancelled. Not just a day or two like it was a snow day. Here, school has been cancelled for three and a half weeks. That is not something you can keep from your kids. And as excited as they may be for their extended school break, I’m sure they are going to have questions and want an explanation.
What do you tell them? How do you talk to your kids about coronavirus? Here are a few tips that could help guide your conversations.E
Check out the new Family Resource Pack– a collection of faith based activities and conversation starters you can use while you have extra time with your kids.
6 tips to help you talk to your kids about the coronavirus
You need to do what you need to do to stay informed. With the President holding press conferences and giving frequent updates, of course you will need to stay updated.
Do yourself a favor and make sure you are getting your information from reliable and trustworthy sources. Social media is probably not the best medium to find information.
Turn the TV off
Once you educate yourself, turn the TV off. Kids don’t need to see the constant media coverage, rising death toll, or photos of the empty store shelves.
However you decide to keep up to date on the quickly evolving situation, make sure you do it without your kids around. Too much information, and false information can cause their fear to grow. You have the ability to protect the from that.
As you educate yourself and as the situation changes, be sure to repeat these steps. This should be an ongoing conversation with your kids, and not a one time talk.
Ask your kids what they already know.
There is a good chance they already have information. It may not be correct, but it will help you guide the conversation once you know what they already know.
Talking can also be a good way to help them process what they have heard, and what they think about what they have heard. As you listen, you will also be better prepared to guide the conversation to help them navigate this the best way possible.
As I write multiple states have declared a State of Emergency, and the President has issued a National Emergency as a country. Multiple states have closed all schools. The NBA, MLB, and NHL have all suspended their seasons. Disney is closing all their parks. Many states have placed a ban on groups of people larger than 250. Churches are closed.
Be honest with yourself first. We are in uncharted territory. The events of the last few weeks are unprecedented. You don’t have anything in history, recent or past, to compare to. No place to draw opinions. And it is that unknown that is causing fear in the general population, and that fear is leading to panic. Stores are selling out of toilet paper, and that doesn’t make sense.
I bet your kids will ask you questions you don’t have answers to, because you have questions yourself you don’t have answers for.
So when you talk to your kids, be honest.
You don’t know.
We have had several of those conversations at our house.
What happens if we have to be in quarantine? How many people will die? Why are people so scared? How long with this situation last? And the list goes on. Right now, we just don’t know. There are no answers to many questions.
And not having an answer is ok. We don’t need to be afraid because we can’t answer a question.
Ask them how they feel
Think about all the information you have about the current situation. How does that make you feel?
Are you scared? Angry? Confused?
Now think about if from your kids perspective. Kids are often afraid of the unknown. They are going to take a lot of cues from you during this time as well. Do what you can to not show them
Helping your kids identify and talk about what they feel will help them to process the entire situation. They may not know what they feel. They may not know how to express how they feel. One great resource we have used in our house is the Emotion Chart. Download the chart and have your kids look through. See if the words and images help them to explain the way they feel.
To many kids, this virus is just something that happened—it is bad, people get sick and some have lost their life, but after mentioning what they know of the situation, they are ready to move on with their day. It would be easy for me to make a big deal out of the event, but in the eyes of a child, they can sometimes deal and process, and then move on. That may or may not be the case for you. Every kid is different, so every reaction will be different as well. Use what you know about your kids and their personalities to help them through this potentially scary time.
Pray for not only the safety our friends and family, and also pray for those affected by the virus. Pray for God to help you not be afraid. Pray for wisdom for our leaders who have to make difficult decisions.
God knows what is happening. He is not surprised. And he doesn’t want us to be afraid. In fact, the Bible tells us 365 times that we don’t need to be afraid. That’s enough times to read one per day for an entire year!
Take a few minutes to read these verses together as part of your conversation.
7 For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.2 Tim 1:7
So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.Isaiah 41:10
It’s a difficult and potentially scary conversation to have, but it is one you are best qualified to have with your own kids. They look up to you. They trust you. They love you. They will listen to you.
To help you further prepare for the conversations and questions, here are some other great resources to help you.
Resources to help you talk to your kids
- Center for Disease Control (CDC) website. This is a GREAT resource for finding facts.
- Mr Rogers has some great resources on helping parents talk to their kids. Here is a video with some advice about talking to kids about scary news.
- PBS has always been a great resource for parents. Here is what PBS has to say about helping your kids through this situation.
- NPR has a resource to help you talk to your kids when news is scary.
- Have a teenager? Here is a Harvard University article with some tips about talking to your teen about the corona virus.
- Here’s an NBC News report explaining what some public health care workers are telling their kids.
- Have younger kids? Here is a Sesame Street video to help your kids talk about their fear.
Coronavirus is a big deal, on a global scale. It’s not something that is going away, and it is unknown, so we don’t know where it will take us. What are you doing to talk to your kids about the coronavirus? Do you have another great resource to share? Post a comment and let us know!