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Tips on How to Communicate with Children During the COVID-19 Pandemic

During this unprecedented time in history, caregivers may feel ill prepared to address the fears and concerns their children have about their health and safety. Beyond this, parents may not know how much information, if any, to convey to their children and how to encourage an open and safe atmosphere to seek information. We’re here to help support you around what and how much you share with your child, as well as how to foster an open dialogue where your child feels they can look to you for guidance.

  • Set the tone and remain calm. Your child will be looking to you as a gauge for how they should react and feel. Remaining calm will go a long way toward setting a supportive and comforting environment.
  • Be available and accessible. Over a puzzle, game, or dinnertime, check in with your child, and check in often. Don’t feel you always have to initiate the check in, but by setting time aside with your child, you open up the opportunity for them to communicate their concerns and questions.
  • Avoid questions that can be answered by a yes/no response, such as “Do you want to talk about anything that’s bothering you?” Instead, you might ask them how they are doing with the transition to online learning, how their friends are doing, or how they feel about the changes that they have experienced.
  • Acknowledge that things are different. Your child’s routine likely has changed in some or many ways. Make sure to support your child as they may miss their routine, school friends, community or other aspects of their life prior to the pandemic. Saying “I understand, it’s hard to not be with your friends,” or “I get it, and I miss seeing grandma also,” can be affirming and comforting.
  • Provide factual information about the virus. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has a set of talking points that can be helpful for your discussions with your child. Tips include talking about what the coronavirus is, how it is transmitted, and how it is expressed and treated. However, you know your child best, and you may need to adjust what information you convey based on your child’s age and capacity to take in information.
  • Be aware when your child switches topics. This usually means they have reached their “limit” and is a signal to change the conversation. You can and should revisit at another time.
  • Monitor other sources of information. Children may have access to other messaging through the television and online, which may be inaccurate or misleading and potentially heighten feelings of distress and anxiety. Limit outside influences, and be available should your child have questions about something they heard from a friend, the TV, or other outside sources.
  • It’s okay not to have all of the answers. There are likely questions you may not have the answer for. It is okay to tell your child that, and to use this time to provide hope. You could say “I’m not sure when you will be going back to school, but I know your teachers are just as eager to return,” or “I don’t know when the virus will “go away,” but there are lots of people who are working very hard to make that happen.” 

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