With all the uncertainty that the world is dealing with, it’s safe to assume that our little ones are going to start asking questions if they haven’t already. Whether they’ve overheard news coverage or kids chatting about it on the playground at school, chances are they have heard of the coronavirus. It is important to have a conversation with your kids about what COVID-19 is, but in a way that kids can understand. The goal is not to scare them about the virus, but to educate them on the importance of why almost everyone is staying at home for the most part and why we all need to make an extra effort to wash our hands more often.
Use Words They Will Understand
Chances are, a 5-year-old will not understand what “social distancing” means, so try explaining it more simply. Try telling them “we can’t see your friends right now, because we need to make sure we aren’t sharing germs with anyone so we and they don’t get sick.” A typical 5-year-old response maybe, “but I’m not sick”; to which a simple response as, “germs travel on all of us and we do not have to be sick to spread them, they are sneaky little things”. Children do no need to know the risk factors, as it can cause their imaginations to run wild, and can cause unneeded stress. Use your judgement based on your child’s age to gauge how much information needs to be delivered. There is a great video online showing how soap can repel germs using a bowl of water, pepper and soap. You can show your kids this video to show them the importance of keeping our hands clean.
Limit their exposure to the news
As adults, we understand that the news focuses on negative events, and the growing number of confirmed cases of COVID-19. While it’s important for us to stay informed, it’s also important to shield our children from information that may be too much for them to understand. Young children do not fully know how to process news like this, and that’s okay. If you can, watch press conferences and news segments on your phone with headphones plugged in. This way you can stay informed, but the children won’t be left to try to process things that they may overhear. As well, children can be very sneaky if at all possible limit exposure to live streaming, television which has short segment new casts or banners and opt for media sources as Netflix, Disney +, Crave, or other sources that all you to control the exposure to news and media updates regarding Covid19.
Make Hand Washing Fun
Children will be much more excited about washing their hands more often if you make it fun for them. A great video has surfaced recently of Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson washing his daughter’s hands while singing part of his song in Moana. Find something your kids enjoy, whether it be a short video or their favourite song and make hand washing fun for them. Even better, make a video of yourselves being creative and post it on social media with the hashtag #inthistogether.
Try to focus on the positives with your kids
Even though you may be more stressed and anxious than usual, it’s important to not transfer that stress onto your children. Take the time you have at home with your kids to make some memories. Go for a long walk together, do some crafts that they’ve been asking you to do, build a blanket fort in your living room, or have a movie night. Once this is all over, you and your kids will be able to look back on the extra time you were able to spend together. Embrace the opportunity to use this time for family bonding. Our typical world is so hectic that it is easy to disconnect, this pandemic may turn into a gift for many who are able to reconnect and reengage in what truly matters, family and our human connection.
This is not an easy time for anyone, but protecting our kids from unneeded stress can make things just a little bit easier for them. If you have more suggestions on how to speak with our kids about COVID-19, feel free to share them in the comments below!
Stay well and remember we are all in this together, let’s continue to support one another.
Dr. Diana Garcia
Dr. Diana Garcia has over 20 years of experience in the field of psychology. She has provided psychological and counseling services in Ontario, and the states of Pennsylvania, and Florida