How To Talk To Your Kids About Coronavirus
A global pandemic isn’t something most of us were prepared for as parents. Sure, we already knew we’d need to talk to our kids about bullying and social justice and mental health — but coronavirus feels a whole new level of difficult conversation. From wearing face masks to social distancing, talking to kids about keeping ourselves and one another safe during this time can be a challenge.
It all starts explaining what COVID-19 actually is, which can be a confusing topic for kids and adults alike. Keeping your explanation simple, honest, and age-appropriate is key. The CDC recommends telling your kids that this is a new virus which can make people sick, and that doctors and scientists are still learning about it, which is why things seem to be changing so fast. If you can’t quite find the words, allow Big Bird to do the talking by showing your kids the CNN Sesame Street Town Hall that explains the novel coronavirus, how it spreads, and how to stay safe in kid-friendly terms.
When it comes to talking to kids about COVID-19, there are four easy steps to take:
This basically says, “Here’s what is happening, but this is what we’re going to do about it, and we’ll get through it together.” It works for conversations about social distancing, hand-washing, wearing kids’ face masks, and more.
Wearing A Mask
Take mask wearing, for example. If your child is hesitant to wear a face mask, it can help to explain why wearing one is important. They have likely seen people around them wearing masks on a regular basis, but showing them a video can help explain the benefits of mask-wearing in a way that they can easily understand. This video that Bill Nye The Science Guy posted to TikTok is a great place to start.
You can also get your child involved in picking out a mask to help them feel more comfortable wearing one. Shop together online, explore the variety of kids’ face masks available from Piccolina, and find one that they love. Piccolina children’s face masks are double-layered and include a place to insert a disposable filter to create triple-layer mask protection to help keep your kids extra safe.
Just like clothes and accessories, kids face masks can be a form of self-expression. Encourage them to have fun expressing themselves, and then you can reassure them that wearing their new triple-layer mask will help keep themselves and others around them safe.
Washing Your Hands
Even during the earliest days of the outbreak, hand-washing was a primary focus to help prevent viral spread. Today, it is still at the top of the CDC’s list of recommendations for how to protect yourself and others from coronavirus.
Teaching your children how to wash their hands properly — especially when they’re very young — can be challenging, but following the same formula for how to talk about COVID-19 safety can also be used here. Explain the importance of proper hand-washing and demonstrate the act of doing so with fun, kid-friendly videos like this one from Sesame Street where Elmo sings a song perfectly timed to the recommended 20 seconds worth of hand-washing.
During this time, my kids and I have had some hard conversations about keeping physical distance between ourselves and others for everyone’s safety. They need constant reassurance that despite not being able to be physically close to friends and loved ones, we can express our feelings in other ways — FaceTime, phone calls, letters, drawings.
If your kids love Baby Shark, you may find that this video from Pinkfong that features the loveable shark explaining social distancing through song and dance is a helpful tool to explain the importance of social distancing. Sometimes hearing things from a silly cartoon character instead of an adult makes it stick for kids.
Model Healthy Habits
As parents, we are all our children’s first teachers. Even during a global pandemic, our actions as parents (and even our reactions in some cases) are still guiding the way.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that parents should talk honestly about the virus with their children, recognize their feelings, and answer any questions they have. They also advise parents to take steps to care for themselves right now and model healthy habits for kids. The AAP’s Healthy Children website is a great place to find more detailed information about a variety of topics related to caring for children during this time.
Staying calm and doing the next right thing right now is hard, but we must show our kids that on both a physical and emotional level, we are handling this crisis in the best way we know how — wearing a face mask, hand-washing, social distancing, and caring for our own needs as parents as we continue to face this ever-evolving situation.
Ashley Jones is a freelance writer based in Houston, Texas whose work has appeared across multiple platforms including Romper, Ladders News, Cancer Today, Publisher’s Weekly, Elite Daily, Let Grow and more. As a mom and stepmom to four children, much of her work involves writing about parenting experiences, but she also reports on workplace trends, health, wellness, and various lifestyle topics.