At any age, the coronavirus pandemic is difficult to fully understand — and it’s particularly difficult for children to grasp.
Children may respond more strongly to the stress and anxiety caused by COVID-19 and become frightened that they or their loved ones will get sick. To help, below are some tips from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for talking to kids and helping them stay healthy.
HOW TO TALK TO CHILDREN
- Remain calm and reassuring. Remember that children will react to both what you say and how you say it. They will pick up cues from the conversations you have with them and with others. Avoid telling them they shouldn’t be worried. Instead, encourage them to talk about how they are feeling.
- Make yourself available to listen and to talk. Be sure children know they can come to you when they have questions. Listen for underlying fears, concerns and misinformation your children might have, and keep your answers simple and direct.
- Avoid language that might blame others and lead to stigma. Remember that viruses can make anyone sick, regardless of a person’s race or ethnicity. Avoid making assumptions about who might have COVID-19.
- Pay attention to what children see or hear on television, radio or online. Consider reducing the amount of screen time focused on COVID-19 for you and your kids. Too much information on one topic can lead to anxiety.
- Provide information that is honest and accurate. Ensure it’s appropriate for the age and developmental level of the child. Remind them how some stories on COVID-19 on the internet and social media may be based on rumors and inaccurate information. Correct any incorrect information clearly, using words they understand.
- Keep it simple. Remind them that officials are working hard to keep everyone safe and healthy. Here are some examples of facts about COVID-19 for discussions with children.
HELP KEEP KIDS HEALTHY
- Teach and reinforce everyday preventative actions. Make handwashing a family activity. Remind children to stay away from people who are coughing or sneezing or sick, and cough or sneeze into a tissue or their elbow, then throw the tissue into the trash.
- Limit contact while staying socially connected. Practice social distancing and forgo in-person playdates with children from other households. To help children maintain social connections while social distancing, help your children have supervised phone calls or video chats with their friends. See more resources from the CDC.
- Help your child stay active. Encourage your child to play outdoors — it’s great for physical and mental health. Take a walk with your child or go on a bike ride.
- Continue learning. Stay in touch with your child’s school, including about any challenges or to ask about any school meals services for pick-up. Create a flexible schedule and routine, and look for ways to make learning fun with hands-on activities, such as puzzles, painting, drawing and making things. See additional ideas from the CDC.
WATCH FOR SIGNS OF ILLNESS AND STRESS
- If you see any sign of illness consistent with symptoms of COVID-19, particularly fever, cough, or shortness of breath, call your health care provider and keep your child at home and away from others as much as possible. Follow CDC guidance.
- Monitor for signs of stress, including excessive worry or sadness, unhealthy eating or sleeping habits, and difficulty with attention and concentration. For more information, see the “For Parents” section of CDC’s Stress and Coping guidance.
- New Psychological First Aid: Supporting Yourself and Others during COVID-19 Course
In order to help people build resilience and lend support to others during these difficult times, Red Cross Training Services has developed a new Psychological First Aid: Supporting Yourself and Others during COVID-19 course. The content is based on guidance from the American Red Cross Scientific Advisory Council, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). The online course takes approximately one hour to complete and includes content on recognizing stress as well as caring for yourself while supporting your family and coworkers.
FIND COVID-19 SAFETY UPDATES Visit redcross.org/coronavirus for more information on COVID-19 safety. For the latest information, please visit the CDC website at cdc.gov/covid19. If you live outside the United States, health and safety tips can be found through the World Health Organization and by following your local Red Cross or Red Crescent society’s social media channels (directory).