Coronavirus: eight tips for talking to children about it

Coronavirus (Covid-19): how to talk to children about it?

Friday, 20.03.2020, 3:00 p.m

By Katharina Kesper 13 Comments

Eight tips: How to reassure and protect your child

We are all overwhelmed by the wealth of information and news about the spread of coronavirus that reaches us every day. Even for children, what they see on TV, the Internet or social media, or hear from others about coronavirus can be disturbing and confusing. This may trigger anxiety, stress, or sadness in them. This is why it is important to talk openly about it with children. This helps them to better understand and deal with the situation.

1. Talk to and listen to your child about the coronavirus

Talk openly about the topic: Find out how much your child already knows and pick up on it. To help your child talk openly and honestly with you, make sure you are in a comfortable environment. Coloring, storytelling, and other fun activities can help address the serious issue.

Children find it easier to talk about concerns and fears when they are in a safe environment.

It’s important not to downplay your child’s concerns and fears. Show that you take them seriously and that it is normal to be afraid of things. Listen and give your child your full attention. Make it clear that your child can talk to you anytime he or she has questions about coronavirus or wants to talk to you.

We want to support you as parents!

In the Corona pandemic, parents ask themselves many questions. At UNICEF, we provide tips and share the knowledge of our experts. Here you can find all our Corona guides for families.

2. Be honest – explain in a way that is appropriate for children

Explain what is happening in a way that is appropriate for children. Children have a right to know what’s going on in the world. Adults have a responsibility to protect them from danger, but also to tell you honestly about it. It is important to use age-appropriate language – watch your child’s reactions and be sensitive.

If you can’t answer some of his questions, it’s no big deal! Don’t speculate or fib to your children. Rather, try to figure out the answers around corona together with your children.

Websites such as those of the Robert Koch Institute or international organizations such as UNICEF or the World Health Organization publish serious information about the coronavirus. Explain that some information on the Internet is not accurate and that it is best to trust the professionals.

Coronavirus: educational poster from UNICEF in Italy.

3. Show your child how to protect themselves

The best way to protect children from coronavirus is to wash your hands regularly! You can also show children how to cover their face with their elbow when coughing or sneezing. Ask your child to tell you if he or she feels sick and feverish or if he or she has a cough or trouble breathing. Here’s how to know directly if your child is hearing symptoms that may apply to coronavirus.

When washing hands, apply enough soap to wet hands!

In our project countries, UNICEF helpers educate families about proper protection against the coronavirus and distribute supplies such as hand soap. You can help reach and protect even more people. Thank you!

4. Reassure your child

Almost everywhere we go these days, we see disturbing images and messages. Therefore, it may seem as if the crisis is pervasive. Children do not always distinguish between the images on the screen and their own personal reality. They may think they are in danger themselves. You can help your child cope with stress and anxiety by taking time, playing with them, giving them space to relax. Stick to routines and well-rehearsed daily routines as much as possible, for example before bedtime.

Time and space for play and relaxation helps your kids unwind.

If where you live is part of a high-risk area or your child’s school or day care center has been closed, explain to your child that he or she is unlikely to get sick, that most people who are infected do not get very sick, and that many people are working to protect your family, grandparents, and friends and acquaintances.

If your child feels sick, explain to them that it is better to stay home because it is safer for them and for their friends. Show understanding that this may be boring or even upsetting, and make it clear that in order to keep everyone safe, these rules must be followed in the moment. We have compiled possible learning and craft activities for you in another blog post.

5. Find out if your child is experiencing stigma or prejudice

The coronavirus has increased fears and prejudices in many countries. For example, there are reports of Asian-looking people being ostracized because they are associated with the pathogen. Since the beginning of the pandemic, there have been numerous reports of discrimination. When children experience bullying at school, they need to be encouraged to talk about it with adults they trust.

Explain that coronavirus has nothing to do with what someone looks like, where they come from, or what language they speak. Remind your children that everyone – every child – has a right to feel safe at all times. Bullying is always wrong, and we should all be kind to each other and support each other.

6. Tell hero stories

Explain to your children how important it is for people to help each other. Tell them about nurses or doctors, scientists or pharmacists who are advocating for others, helping to stop the outbreak, and who are in the process of developing a Corona vaccine. It gives your children hope and eases their fears when they know there are many people willing to help.

On social media, UNICEF supporters use the handwashing move to show: handwashing is important and fun! Have a dance about it with your children:

7. Pay attention to yourself

You can only help your children well if you are also well and do not seem worried or scared! Because children are very observant. You will notice immediately if you are not telling the truth. If you feel anxious or unsettled, take time for yourself and reach out to other family members, friends, and trusted people around you. Take time to do things that help you relax and unwind.

8. Pay attention to how the conversation has affected your child

Pay attention to what all this information is doing to your child. We must not leave children frightened or unsettled. Try to get a sense of how scared your child is. To do this, you should pay attention to his physical reaction (pitch, body language, breathing). Remind your child that he or she can always talk to you about other difficult topics as well.

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