Discuss Corona with your Little?
Don’t avoid the subject
Children are hearing a tremendous amount. They’re hearing big words that they’ve never heard before. For younger children that may just start with demystifying terms, like answering “what is coronavirus?” The answer: “It’s a really big word but it’s a fancy word for what we normally call a cold or the flu and something that’s been around for a long time. Now there’s a new virus and that’s what everyone is talking about.” For older children you may be addressing misinformation they hear from friends or on social media.
Listen first and talk second. Listen for concerns, questions and misinformation. Let your Little know you’re glad they are asking you questions and sharing what is on their mind. It’s a good practice to avoid the tendency to want to fill the silence when it comes to these types of sensitive conversations. If they ask a question, you answer their questions in a direct, clear and brief way and then pause and see if they have any more questions. Pause and see what happens next.
How to say, ‘I don’t know’
It’s OK to say “I don’t know,” experts agree. In fact, it’s important to do so. When children find out you misled them, it will undermine their trust in you.
But it appears there are more helpful ways to say, “I don’t know” than just saying “I don’t know.” There is, “I don’t know. Why don’t we look that up together.” This allows you to model for the child that when you don’t know something, you seek out information about it. This can really enhance a sense of trust that a child has in you, knowing that you can count on your Big to tell you what they know, tell you what they don’t know and then go find out the answer.
Kids can feel really comforted when you say ‘you know there are so many people asking that exact question at this exact moment. We are in a community of a whole world of people, all asking that question.
Power them up
When we are all feeling pretty helpless, let’s be honest, it can help children through these moments by giving them some of the power back. That can be helpful when explaining why they have to wash their hands so much, why they can’t play with their friends like they normally do and it can be especially helpful with questions about grandparents and the elderly.
Empower children by saying, look we don’t get very sick [from the coronavirus] but believe it or not we could still have that virus, we have to help so that not too many people get sick. That’s part of our job.
That also explains the hand washing — that keeps the germs away and the virus away.
That explains school closing — we’re trying to really keep this virus from spreading so you’re not going to be with so many other people. That’s why parents have to work from home now. All of those pieces can be put in the context of we’re all working together.
It’s important to remind them “the grown-ups are handling it,” We don’t have to pretend we know all the answers, but we do have to project a calm confidence that there are smart people everywhere — doctors, policymakers, teachers — all working together to make sure we get through this.”