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How to Talk to Your Kids About Coronavirus

No matter where you turn - television, internet, conversations with friends - it seems the only topic being discussed is coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). This constant stream of information and messaging is causing an increase in stress and anxiety for all of us. But it’s not just adults that are experiencing these feelings - our children are often taking in the same information or recognizing our stress.

“Children pay attention to parents’ stress and anxiety, so it is best to model positive coping strategies for your child.  It is normal for your child to express his or her feelings about the virus and how it is affecting your family’s life,” said Janet Grom, a child life specialist at Banner Thunderbird Medical Center. “If you notice your child regressing or acting out, remember that it may be difficult for him or her to express or say what he or she is feeling, and if they voice feeling scared, that is normal.  Positive coping strategies to engage in with your child can include journaling, exercising, playing outside, cooking or baking, or watching a favorite show.”

How to Help Your Child Deal With COVID-19 Stress and Anxiety

Grom offers this important guidance on discussing COVID-19 and keeping your children informed and calm:

  • Make it clear you’re available: As adults, it’s easy for us to become wrapped up in our own concerns and anxieties surrounding COVID-19. But take the time to let your child know you’re open to questions and concerns at any time.
  • Offer age-appropriate information: The detail or amount of information you provide your child will be based on age. Consider starting the conversation by asking for questions to figure out what your child already knows.
  • Answer questions honestly: “It is important to answer your child’s questions openly and honestly.  It is okay to say, ‘I don’t know’ if your child asks you a question that you don’t have an answer to,” Grom said.  Based on available information on COVID-19 from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, children do not appear to be at high risk for COVID-19 as compared to adults. While there have been some cases of COVID-19 in children, majority of the reported cases have been in adults.
  • Limit exposure to COVID-19 messages: Consider reducing screen time. Too much focus on the topic can increase anxiety.
  • Teach how to stop the spread of germs: Kids don’t just need reminders of the proper way to wash hands, they need to be shown. Also explain that germs are spread through our mouth, nose and eyes so it’s important to avoid touching those areas unless necessary.

If you sense your child is stressed out or anxious about COVID-19, a great stress reliever is to get your body moving. Go for a walk with your child or into the backyard for a game of catch. It will make your child - and you - feel better, and provides an opportunity to have a discussion about your child’s feelings.

“Whether it was from someone at school, the internet, television, or from a friend, your child has probably heard about COVID-19.  Kids know and trust their caregivers the most, and it is helpful to hear the facts from a caregiver rather than the media”, Grom said. “Having an open dialogue with your child can promote feelings of comfort and safety in an otherwise unpredictable time.”

For more advice on how to address this difficult topic with your child or to consult an expert, schedule an appointment with a Banner Health behavioral health provider. For the latest regarding COVID-19, visit BannerHealth.com.

COVID-19 Infectious Disease Parenting Children's Health Stress Anxiety

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