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How to Talk to Your Child About Coronavirus and COVID-19

Coronavirus and COVID-19 have caused many changes in daily life. Children may be confused, worried, or scared. Parents and caregivers often don’t know what to say or how much to tell their children.

Tips for Talking to Your Child About COVID-19

Talk about what your child already knows, and check understanding.

Find out what your child has heard and any questions he or she might have. With so many sources of information, from the media to friends, it is important to make sure children are getting accurate information. Use simple and developmentally appropriate language. 

To start some of these conversations, you may ask: 

“What are your friends saying about COVID-19?” 

“Do you have questions about coronavirus?” 

“What types of things have you heard about coronavirus?”

How do you talk to your child about coronavirus and COVID-19? This photo shows a dad watching as his son colors in a hospital waiting area.

Children can have bright imaginations, which can lead to unnecessary anxiety in times of stress. Because of this, try to find a healthy balance between answering questions about COVID-19 openly without overwhelming them with too much information.

Find out what your child is feeling. 

Children can have a range of reactions. Some children may be very worried or anxious. Other children may think it is no big deal and not take precautions seriously. It can be helpful to ask about their general feelings as well as how they feel about changes in daily life. 

“How worried are you about coronavirus?”

“What are your biggest worries?”

”How do you feel when you hear about coronavirus?”

“How do you feel when you see others wearing masks?”

“What do you think about school being canceled?”

Be open and honest. 

Talk openly and honestly with your child. Being open and sharing information can reduce anxiety, confusion, and misconceptions. Children can have bright imaginations, which can lead to unnecessary anxiety in times of stress. Because of this, try to find a healthy balance between answering questions openly without overwhelming them with too much information.  It’s okay if you don’t know the answer to a question. You can reply:

“That is a great question. I don’t know the answer, but we can ask your doctor.” 

Help your child feel safe and offer reassurance. 

The virus outbreak can cause increased stress and anxiety for everyone. It is important to remember that children can pick up on the emotions and anxiety of parents and caregivers. Be aware of how you are managing your own anxiety. When talking to your child about coronavirus, do your best to maintain a calm presence. Also, try to be mindful of when your child might overhear conversations or pick up on behaviors that show your anxiety. Talk about the things they can do to help prevent illness, like washing hands. 

Continue play and normal activities. 

Remember that play is the language of children. Play allows for emotional expression and promotes development. For younger children with fewer language skills, play is essential for communication, expression, and overall coping. We encourage continued play and normal routines as much as possible. Make sure you take the proper health precautions as recommended by your doctor. If you change your normal routine, explain why using facts and reassurance.

This photo shows a mom and a dad playing with their child on his hospital bed.

For children, play is the language of expression. Continue with play and normal routines as much as possible. Take health precautions as directed by your care team.

Explain hospital changes and precautions.

You may have noticed things at your hospital or medical clinic are a little different. Your child may be wondering about some of these changes. These changes are to protect everyone and help prevent the spread of germs. In order to reduce the risk of COVID-19, many hospitals are screening people and limiting events. This may include limiting siblings and other family members.

Here are some responses to common questions your child may ask about changes at your health care facility:

Answers to Common Questions Your Child May Ask About Coronavirus and COVID-19

As parents, you know your child best. Some children want to know a little. Some children want to know a lot. These are some suggestions for child-friendly ways to answer questions about coronavirus and COVID-19. You can give more or less information based on your child.

Use child friendly ways to make handwashing fun, including singing the ABCs, Happy Birthday, or sing your child’s favorite song for 20 seconds.

Talking with Teenagers about Coronavirus (COVID-19)

Sometimes teenagers feel invincible or that risks do not apply to them. You may have noticed your teen or teen siblings not taking the coronavirus seriously. Or they may think that everyone is just blowing it out of proportion. Keep in mind that teens may be hearing misinformation from others, especially friends and social media. Talk openly to your teen and clarify any misconceptions they may have. Emphasize the importance of using recommended strategies to prevent the spread of coronavirus, such as hand washing.

The Story on the Coronavirus and COVID-19

COVID-19 is a respiratory infection caused by a coronavirus. Teens and young adults can learn the story on COVID-19. Read about the benefits of social distancing and find resources to cope with the added stress of the coronavirus pandemic.

Learn the Story of the Coronavirus

Managing Anxiety About Coronavirus (COVID-19)

If you feel you need additional support in discussing coronavirus and COVID-19 or coping with related anxiety, many members of your child’s care team can support you and your child. Let your medical team know your concerns.  

COVID-19 Resources for Parents

"Learn about the Coronavirus" Coloring Book

Download and print this coloring book for children. They can read about the coronavirus and COVID-19 and color the pages.

"Learn about the Coronavirus" Coloring Book
Download the Coronavirus Coloring Book

“Learn about the Coronavirus” Activity Book

Download and print this coloring book for older children. They can read about the coronavirus and COVID-19, color some pages, and work word puzzles.

“Learn about the Coronavirus” Activity Book
Download the Coronavirus Activity Book

Reviewed: June 2020