By Dr. Will Henson
Talking to kids about COVID-19
This week more than 31 states (as of 3/16) have closed schools in response to the COVID-19 outbreak. Educators may find themselves being asked questions from kids, either in school or at home with their own families. Here are some ways to talk about how to talk to kids about COVID-19.
Keep in mind that what, and how much you share should depend on the developmental age and readiness of the child.
- Do talk to your students and children about the situation. Acting like it is not happening will only increase anxiety. They cannot help but notice that the world is in a state of upheaval – naming it, and recognizing it, are critical to helping them cope.
- Be truthful and factual with the information you choose to share. Avoid discussing rumors, or what-ifs. Now, more than ever, the internet is filled with false information. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) maintains a COVID-19 page with the latest information. Most local and state agencies also have pages about information relevant to your area.
- Be aware of your adult discussions that children may overhear. Take care when discussing distressing topics in front of kids.
- Remain calm. Children of all ages need to know that the adults in their life are confident and taking action. If you project a lot of anxiety and worry, it will only make kids more fearful. Be especially aware of your non-verbal behavior, not just what you say. This doesn’t mean you should be insincere about your own feelings, but it is imperative that you are mindful of how you present your thoughts and feelings.
Educators are on the front lines of helping to stem the spread of this virus, and we have a great responsibility for protecting and informing students. The way you approach this situation can greatly impact how children react and manage.