How to Talk to Your Kids about the Coronavirus

With all the concerns regarding the Coronavirus (COVID-19), we understand that parents may be looking for guidance on how to explain the news to their children.  

We care about the well-being of all our students and know the best way to ease a child’s anxiety is by remaining calm and reassuring. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the National Association of School Psychologists (NASP) created resources to help parents minimize their children’s fear or anxiety by having honest and accurate conversations about COVID-19.  

Here are some of the suggestions from the CDC and NASP: 

Remain calm and reassuring: 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. Remind them that you and the adults at their school are there to keep them safe and healthy. 

Make yourself available…to talk and listen: Make time to talk. Be sure children know they can come to you when they have questions. They may need extra attention from you and may want to talk about their concerns, fears, and questions 

Avoid language that might blame others and lead to stigma: Remember that viruses can make anyone sick, regardless of a person’s race or ethnicity. Avoid making assumptions about who might have COVID-19. 

Provide information that is honest and accurate 

  • In the absence of factual information, children often imagine situations far worse than reality. 
  • Give children information that is truthful and appropriate for the age and developmental level of the child. 
  • Explain how it spreads when an infected person coughs or sneezes or when you touch an infected surface or object, which is why it is important to protect yourself from the spread of germs 
  • Refer to the CDC website for the facts on COVID-19 

Pay attention to what children see and hear on television, radio, or on social media  

  • Consider reducing the amount of screen time focused on COVID-19. Too much information on one topic can lead to anxiety 
  • Speak to your child about how many stories about COVID-19 on the Internet may be based on rumors and inaccurate information. 
  • Talk to your child about factual information—this can help reduce anxiety. 
  • Be aware that developmentally inappropriate information (i.e., information designed for adults) can cause anxiety or confusion, particularly in young

Teach children everyday actions to help reduce the spread of germs 

  • Remind children to stay away from people who are coughing or sneezing or sick. 
  • Remind them to cough or sneeze into a tissue or their 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. (e.g., increased handwashing, cancellation of events or activities) 
  • Get children into a handwashing habit. 
  • Teach them to wash their hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after blowing their nose, coughing, or sneezing; going to the bathroom; and before eating or preparing food. 
  • If soap and water are not available, teach them to use hand sanitizer. Hand sanitizer should contain at least 60% alcohol. Supervise young children when they use hand sanitizer to prevent swallowing alcohol, especially in schools and childcare facilities. 

For more specifics, including age-appropriate explanations, and discussing the facts about COVID-19 with children visit: 

Talking to Children About COVID-19 (Coronavirus): A Parent Resource 

Talking with children about Coronavirus Disease 2019: Messages for parents, school staff, and others working with children