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Children and How Parents Can Respond to the Coronavirus

Children and Covid-19 Children and Covid-19

Sharing some information with children in this trying time is essential, however, that also heavily varies based on the developmental age and stage of the child. A younger child around age 5 or 6 may not need more information besides explanation of the hygiene procedures: “We are trying to keep healthy and need to wash our hands and stay clear of touching our face, nose, and mouth.” Some younger children in this age range have heard of the virus and will ask direct questions about it. Keep the facts simple and try not to over-explain things: “Yes, there is a virus and we need to be careful to stay healthy. That’s why we have to wash our hands more often.” Children under age 5/6 would generally be addressed in the same way if they ask questions.

For children age 7 and up it is also key to not overwhelm them with too much verbal explanation. Simple, clear, factual answers help children (and all of us!) feel emotionally contained. Children 7-10 years of age are likely to ask more detailed questions, such as why school is closed, or why a large gathering is canceled. A clear answer could be: “In big groups, germs can spread, so we need to keep meetings in smaller groups or hold off on meeting together until this passes.”

Some children 10 and up may ask if this is a “crisis.” The answers again should be clear and to the point without causing undue stress on the child. Remember children’s emotional health and well being relies on the adults’ reaction to levels of stress. A sample answer to a child older than 10 can be: “It is an issue right now with the virus and all the grown-ups - schools, doctors, parents, etc. - are doing their best to help get through this in a safe way.”

For teens 12 and up, they can have a lot of access to social media and online media. The news they occasionally access is misinformation. There needs to be a time to go over all their questions and where parents can review the children’s fears and thoughts about the virus in a meaningful and reassuring manner.

With a lot of balance and careful support we can guide children in this situation so they feel understood. Furthermore, this is a time to instill resilience and strength to the children. As one child recently framed it the other day, “I am calm because we will get through this.”

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