How to Talk to Children About COVID-19
Sun, April 11, 2021

How to Talk to Children About COVID-19


The lives of millions of adults all over the world have changed due to the coronavirus pandemic, explained Anna North of Vox, a news and opinion website. People are practicing social distancing, staying at home, or taking care of a sick family member. How about children?

Millions of kids are at home from school or daycare; they don’t know when they will return. Children can’t go to playgrounds, hang out with friends, or visit their grandparents. Adults can read and understand news about the virus, but younger kids may struggle to comprehend the pandemic.

Disruptions Faced by US Residents an Anxiety Experienced by Japanese Parents

The Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF), a health policy research platform, said 53% of respondents were worried of losing income due to workplace closure and reduced hours while 41% were worried of putting themselves at risk of being exposed to the virus because they can’t afford to stay home from work. These were prevalent in lower-income households (less than $40,000 a year), part-time workers, and hourly wage-earners. Many of them said their employer does not offer paid sick leave or paid time off to care for a sick loved one.

40% of the public said their life has been disrupted at least “some” due to the outbreak while 16% said it has been disrupted “a lot.” 46% of women said their life has been disrupted by a lot or some compared to 355 of men. Parents who have children below 18 years old (45%) were more likely than non-parents (38%) to report such disruptions. Hispanics (50%)were also more likely than Whites (38%) and Blacks (30%) to be disrupted a lot or some by the coronavirus pandemic.

Further, parents of children below 18 (68%) were more likely than non-parents (60%) to be very worried or somewhat worried that they or someone in their family will get sick from the coronavirus. Such sentiments were echoed by 83% of Hispanics (versus 56% of Whites and 65% of Blacks) and 68% of those with a household income of <$40k (versus 60% of those with household income: $40k-<$90k and 56% of households earning $90k+).

In Japan, about 70% of 8,339 parents were worried about the impact the nationwide school shutdown due to the virus is having on their kids, according to government-approved child welfare aid group Florence, as quoted by Kyodo via The Japan Times, Japan’s largest and oldest English-language newspaper.

Among parents who said they are “anxious” or “very anxious,” 69.9% mentioned children’s lack of exercise. They also cited not being able to meet friends and disruption of studies, both amounting around 57%.



US Seniors Are Least Worried and Least Informed about the Coronavirus (2020)

The Harris Poll, a market research company, found that 47% of adults over 60 were worried about dying from the coronavirus despite being most at risk versus 57% of millennials who were afraid of dying from it. In a survey of 2,000 adults, 77% of them over 65 said they’re “unlikely” to catch the virus based on their daily habits versus 67% of millennials.

Alarmingly, 25% of adults above 65 said they are not very knowledgeable about the virus. 13% of seniors consulted a medical professional about their risk of contracting the COVID-19 unlike 21% of millennials. 81% of older Americans were willing to attend family events unlike 71% of millennials. The poll revealed that only 11% of seniors backed out of group activities.



Talking About the Coronavirus to Your Kids In An Age-Appropriate Manner

1.     Facilitate Discussions

You can ask your child what they know about the COVID-19 or what they have read or watched on news sites or on YouTube, recommended Dr. Natasha Burgert of US News, an American media company. If your child approaches you and expresses concern about the virus, you can say, “Tell me more about that” or “Why are you asking?”

Open-ended questions and follow-up questions reveal how your child is processing information, helping you build an age-appropriate answer to their queries. This also prevents “over-answering” a question or sharing new information that could make them more anxious.

2.     Encourage Your Child to Read News From Credible Sources

Be abreast of current events by reading news articles from legitimate sources such as public health authorities, suggested Adriana M. Chavez of Las Cruces Sun News, a newspaper in New Mexico. Watch out for fake news and clarify any misinformation by stating the facts in an age-appropriate manner.

3.     Explain Why You Are Working

Not every employee can work from home; in fact, many of them have been laid off or experienced reduced work hours. If you’re working remotely, you have to balance accomplishing work-related tasks and playing with your child. If that happens, you can say that working from home is one way to keep our communities and families safe.

Assure your child that the situation is temporary and your job is secure during the pandemic. Robin Gurwitch, a psychologist and professor at Duke University School of Medicine, suggested saying, “I’m home with you to make sure that our family stays healthy and well.” You can also set a timer so your child knows how long they have to wait until they get your full attention.



4.     Maximize Your Time

To keep your child’s mind sharp, you can access educational resources from homeschooling networks or in e-learning platforms, if you have the resources. You can also ask your child to communicate with his classmates on FaceTime, Zoom, or any platform. 

Developing and sharing healthy habits can help beat cabin fever from the coronavirus outbreak. You can use this time to teach younger kids how to wash their hands properly. Try to frame hand-washing as part of your family’s routine. Gurwitch recommended saying, “In our family, we always wash our hands because it helps us be healthy.”

For children who are old enough to understand the importance of handwashing, you can emphasize that washing our hands is important to get rid of germs and if we don’t get rid of them, they can make us sick, Gurwitch said. 

Tell them that hand-washing is one of the best ways to keep themselves safe from the coronavirus. Aside from hand-washing, instruct your child to get adequate sleep, eat whole foods, exercise, or reduce screen time to spend time with their family.

Adults and children alike should be knowledgeable about the coronavirus and should discern between fake and credible news. If you have grandparents living in your household, you and your child can help them take precautionary measures to protect themselves from the virus.