Everyone's talking about it, including your kids. But how do you explain something as potentially scary and nebulous as COVID-19 to a child?
Kathryn Dahlstrom, MS, LMFT, with The Village’s Moorhead office, said in a recent interview that it’s important for adults to keep calm when having conversations about the coronavirus. Children are very influenced by the stress of their caregivers, she said.
It’s also important not to overwhelm them with information. Only answer the questions they are asking. Don’t bring up a topic if they’re not inquiring about it specifically or don’t need that information.
Instead, answer their questions in a way that helps them to feel safe and is truthful. Keep it simple and developmentally appropriate. For example, explain what social distancing is, why it’s important to wash your hands frequently, and why they might see someone wear a mask. This is good information for anytime they want to avoid becoming ill.
Kathryn suggests these resources:
- This comic from Mindheart.co helps explain the coronavirus to young children in an age-appropriate, helpful manner.
- Conscious Discipline put together this story to explain to kids why their school is closed.
- The National Child Traumatic Stress Network put together this guide for parents and caregivers to help families cope.
She also said routines are also important right now. “Kids thrive on routine and structure,” Kathryn said, so be consistent with mealtimes and bedtime. Lower your expectations for how clean the house is, and keep your meal prep easy.
Here are a few more suggestions, courtesy of KidsHealth.org:
Ask your child what he or she has heard. This can help you gauge what your child already knows and correct any misinformation.
Follow your child’s lead. Some kids will want to talk, others won’t, and that’s OK. Keep checking in.
If you don’t know the answer to one of their questions, say so. Use the opportunity to do the research together using reputable sources.
Let your kids know it’s normal to feel stressed out at times. Recognizing these feelings and knowing that stressful times pass can help children build resilience.
The Village Family Service Center provides behavioral health services to all ages across North Dakota and Minnesota. To make an appointment for you or your child, call The Village location most convenient for you or request an appointment online.