Talking to children about COVID-19 can be challenging for parents, family members, and other trusted adults. The goal is to help children make sense of what they hear from the media and others in a way that is honest and accurate, while minimizing anxiety or fear. The CDC has created easy to follow guidance to help adults have conversations with children about COVID-19.
CDC guidance has five points to keep in mind when talking with children. They are the following:
1.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.
- Make yourself available to listen and to talk.
- Make time to talk. Be sure children know they can come to you when they have 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.
- Pay attention to what children see or hear on television, radio, or online.
- Consider reducing the amount of screen time focused on COVID-19. Too much information on one topic can lead to anxiety.
- Provide information that is honest and accurate.
It is also important to teach and remind children actions they can do to reduce the spread of germs. These actions include the following:
- 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 while out in public to help protect children.
(e.g., increased handwashing, social distancing and the 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.
EXPLAINING WHAT COVID-19 IS TO CHILDREN
What is COVID-19?
- COVID-19 is the short name for “coronavirus disease 2019.” It is a new virus. This virus is a germ and doctors and scientists are still learning about it.
- This virus has made people sick. Scientists and doctors think that most people will be ok, especially kids, but some people might get pretty sick.
- Doctors and scientists are working hard to help people stay healthy.
What happens if you get sick with COVID-19?
- COVID-19 can look different in different people. For many people, being sick with COVID-19 would be a little bit like having the flu. People can get a fever, cough, or have a hard time taking deep breaths. Most people who have gotten COVID-19 have not gotten very sick. Only a small group of people who get it have had more serious problems. From what doctors have seen so far, most children don’t seem to get very sick. While a lot of adults get sick, most adults get better.
- If you do get sick, it doesn’t mean you have COVID-19. People can get sick from all kinds of germs. What’s important to remember is that if you do get sick, the adults at home will help get help that you need.
Parents and Adults can do more.
Keep things clean. Older children can help at home to clean the things we touch the most, like tables, doorknobs, light switches, and remote controls. (Note for adults: you can find more information about cleaning and disinfecting on CDC’s website.
On a final note, If you suspect you or other family members may have COVID-19, call your healthcare provider to let them know before you go to see them.