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Tips for talking with your kids about COVID-19

Wellness | Safety | March 19, 2020
woman talking with two young girls
Trusted adults play an important role in helping children make sense of the virus in ways to reduce fear.

As the new coronavirus (COVID-19) continues to be on the forefront of our daily lives, children may worry about themselves, their family, and friends getting sick with COVID-19. Parents and other trusted adults can play an important role in helping children make sense of what they hear in a way that is honest, accurate, and minimizes anxiety or fear.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has created some tips to help adults have conversations with children about COVID-19 and ways they can avoid getting and spreading the disease.

General guidelines for talking to children:

  1. Remain calm and reassuring. Remember that children will react to both what you say and how you say it. They will pick up cues from the conversations you have with them and with others.
  2. Make yourself available to listen and to talk. Make time to talk and be sure children know they can come to you when they have questions.
  3. Teach children everyday actions to reduce the spread of germs.
  • Remind children to stay away from people who are coughing, sneezing or sick.
  • Remind them to cough or sneeze into a tissue or their elbow, then throw the tissue into the trash.
  • Get children into a handwashing habit:
    • Teach them to wash their hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after blowing their nose, coughing, or sneezing; going to the bathroom; and before eating or preparing food. Think of a fun song to sing together, like the Happy Birthday song twice, to help count the time.
    • If soap and water are not available, teach them how to properly use hand sanitizer. Hand sanitizer should contain at least 60% alcohol. Supervise young children when they use hand sanitizer to prevent swallowing alcohol.
  1. Avoid language that might blame others and lead to stigma. Remember that viruses can make anyone sick, regardless of a person’s race or ethnicity. Avoid making assumptions about who might have COVID-19.
  2. Pay attention to what children see or hear on television, radio, or online. Consider reducing the amount of screen time focused on COVID-19; too much information on one topic can lead to anxiety and/or fear.
  3. Provide information that is honest and accurate. Give children information that is truthful and appropriate for the age and developmental level of the child. Talk about how some stories on COVID-19 on the Internet and social media may be based on rumors and inaccurate information.

    Source: CDC

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