The following is submitted by Melissa Nolan, M.S., Director of the Nancy W. Darden Child Development Center at East Carolina University
With the very challenging COVID-19 crisis, it has become increasingly obvious to children that their everyday lives are changing. Therefore, they may have a lot of questions. Although no one expects you to have all of the answers to their questions, it is extremely important to have conversations with children to reduce their fears and anxieties.
Here are a few tips to consider when talking to children about COVID-19:
- Be available to talk and listen.
- Children often talk about the things that worry them during low-risk situations (e.g., bath time, dinner time, coloring, etc).
- Be honest, open, and vulnerable.
- It’s okay to tell them that you don’t know the answer to their questions.
- Validate their feelings and reassure them.
- Let them know that it’s okay to feel scared, worried, and/or sad.
- Give them permission to feel happy, excitement, and joy. Some children will see their parents worry and feel like they are not supposed to feel positive emotions during this time.
- Remind them no matter what happens you love them and they will be taken care of.
- Avoid providing too much information.
- Only answer the questions that they ask.
- Answer questions with accurate information and avoid stigmatization.
- Limit/monitor their exposure to online articles, news programs, and other commentary about COVID-19. Young children have a hard time making sense of what they see. Too much information can increase their anxiety.
- Remind them of ways to prevent COVID-19 (handwashing, social distancing, etc).