Back to School: Talking to Kids about COVID-19

COVID-19 can be a very difficult topic to talk to your children about. It is important to help them understand what is going on in the world right now and why society is different than before the pandemic. 


Your children may watch TV, listen to radio or read articles about COVID19. It may be hard for them to understand what the virus is. They may have concerns for friends, family members or teachers. Here is a guide to help adults have conversations about the coronavirus with their children and take preventative actions, according to the Centers for Disease Control. 


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. Children often mimic their parents’ reactions and emotions. By remaining calm, you’ll help your child see that disease is something to take seriously but not something they have to be fearful or anxious about.


Make time to talk. Be sure children know they can come to you when they have questions. This is good parenting advice any time, but it’s especially important when children might be experiencing stress from the news they see about the public health crisis. 


Watch closely what children see and hear on television, radio or online. Reduce the amount of screen time focused on COVID-19. Too much information can lead to stress. It’s important for children to have accurate information, but they also could possibly obsess over the continually changing news. 


Give information that is truthful and appropriate for the age and developmental level of the child. Talk to children about how some stories on COVID-19 on the internet and social media may be based on rumors and inaccurate information. It is important to know where the stories are coming from and if those sources are reliable.


Your children might find it odd that people all over the country aren’t interacting with one another the same way. Make sure your children understand that life is very different right now and there are extra precautions they need to take to protect themselves and other people. Here is a list of topics you can speak to your child about regarding the prevention of the spread of germs, according to the CDC: 

• Do not touch your eyes, mouth or nose if you have not washed your hands.  • Remind children to wash hands as often as they can.  • Stay away from people who are coughing and sneezing. • Cough or sneeze into a tissue or elbow, then throw the tissue into the trash.  • Discuss any new actions that may be taken at school to help protect children and school staff. Increased hand-washing and cancellation of events or activities are all possible when students return to school.