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Talking to kids about Coronavirus (COVID-19)

“How do you talk to young children about a word too big for them to say: coronavirus? There is one simple answer: it depends."

By Australian parenting expert and father of 6 Dr Justin Coulson, PhD

To children under the age of 3

We should usually answer with short sentences and minimal information. And then we talk about what we can do.

Ex. "We can't see Grandma for a while because she lives at another house. But we can see her on the computer!"

Pre-school children

Tend to need more information than our toddlers. But not much more. Answer their questions briefly to the extent that they are curious, and then check that they have had enough. Only answer what you know.

Ex. "Do you have any other questions?" "What else would you like to know?"

Most importantly, give them a hug and get them involved in helping you or another family member with something fun (and a little distracting)

Heard

We often say

"Oh, it'll be ok", or "You'll be just fine" to our children when they worry. But these responses can feel dismissive.

To really hear, we should stop what we are doing, look into their eyes, and listen carefully. Instead of telling them "it's ok" when they clearly think it's not, we should name their feelings to tame their feelings:

"You're really worried about grandpa aren't you?"

"You're so sad that you can't have your birthday with all of your friends and cousins."

Healthy

Most importantly

Our children need to be healthy. Teach them how to wash hands, cough safely, and stay healthy.

Humour

Laughter is the best medicine

…and powerful stress relief. And infants, toddlers, and pre-schoolers love to laugh! Play peek-a-boo. Sing songs. Dance. Tickle. Draw. Bang spoons on saucepans. Read stories.

Our child's laughter can also provide a welcome distraction for us from the troubles around us. Laugh with them!

Help

Helping builds relationships

It enhances feelings of competence and gives children a sense of purpose. It also helps us out with jobs round the house!

Hope

Our children need to believe in a positive future

Communicating with gentle, reassuring and understanding language helps build confidence as well as not missing the opportunity to still have fun!