How to talk to kids about the coronavirus

How to talk to kids about the coronavirus

It’s hard to turn on the television or look at the internet without seeing more and more about the spread of the new coronavirus across the globe.

Parents should be mindful that it may be necessary to manage anxiety in their children.

Dr. Gabrielle Roberts, a pediatric psychologist at Advocate Children’s Hospital, says parents should be vigilant for indications that children are aware and concerned.

While Dr. Roberts does not believe the topic of coronavirus should be introduced to very young children, if children of any age ask questions about it, parents should be prepared to discuss it.

Dr. Roberts suggests parents approach the topic using (AIR): Ask, Inform and Reassure.

  • Ask: Ask about what a child knows and his or her concerns. Validate their feelings.
  • Inform: Provide honest, yet age-appropriate information, providing a little at a time, no more than you think a child can handle. Parents should be calm and compare coronavirus to something the child understands, like the flu.
  • Reassure: Be sure a child knows they are safe and that most people don’t get very sick from the virus. Stress that scientists around the world are working on it. Empower children to prevent it by teaching the importance of handwashing.

Dr. Roberts says managing media intake as a family is important during distressing times. It is also a good time to teach children that the amount of media coverage on an issue is often not indicative of the threat level.

“Overall, children are very resilient, and even if temporarily anxious, they should be just fine,” says Dr. Roberts. “There are children who will have a more difficult time, such as children who tend to be more anxious or those who have a closer or more personal connection to the situation. Parents should monitor their children and address fears if they arise, seeking help from a mental health professional if necessary.

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About the Author

Evonne Woloshyn
Evonne Woloshyn

Evonne Woloshyn, health enews contributor, is director of public affairs at Advocate Children's Hospital. Evonne began her career as an anchor and reporter in broadcast news. Over the past 20 years, she has worked in health care marketing in both Ohio and Illinois. Evonne loves to travel, spend time with family and is an avid Pittsburgh Steelers fan!