Talking to Kids About the Corona Virus

I didn’t really want to write this post. I’m not into fear mongering, don’t have any secret stashes of toilet paper, and have always been a proponent of handwashing. 

We don’t watch the news and are careful in the conversations we have in front of our kids, so I naively thought that they wouldn’t hear about the Corona Virus. Since Charlee, my 7 year old, can sometimes be prone to fear and worry, I figured there was no reason to mention it. But when she asked at dinner the other night how a spiky ball could get inside your body, I realized that I had been mistaken.

That night, we realized she had seen an image of the virus like the one above. We talked about how small that is in real life, compared it to other times she’s been sick with a cold or the flu, and how God created our bodies to fight viruses. We didn’t mention the word ‘Corona’ and thought we were good.

Then I remembered what I often teach parents about important conversations — if you wait until your kids ask you, you’ve waited too long. Our kids will either get information from us or from school, friends, siri, Alexa, google, etc. and always, ALWAYS we want our kids to hear it from us first. Having proactive conversations allows us to frame events accurately, build our trust with our kids, and can open the door for important teaching moments.

So yesterday as we were driving around town, she and I talked and I’m so glad we did. Here’s how our conversation went and a few tips for you when talking to your kids about the Corona Virus:

1 – Ask your child what they’ve heard about the situation. This is always the best place to start. We want to hear what our kids know and think so that we can shape the conversation to their knowledge, questions, or misinformation. I asked my daughter if she had ever heard about the Corona virus and she told me that they talked about it on her school news. All she knew was that it’s something that goes inside you to make you sick, so we need to wash our hands for 20 seconds.

2 – Explain the situation factually and succinctly. Kids need the basic facts so that they feel informed, because uncertainty is often scarier than what is actually happening. However, they do not need all of the nitty-gritty details such as mortality rates or number of people infected. What this means in your family depends on your child and their age. I explained to Charlee that the Corona Virus is something that is making people sick, and it can spread to people when they share their germs. We talked about how people in different countries have it, so leaders in our state and our country are working hard to make sure people stay healthy. 

3 – Ask if they have any questions. Is anything making them feel worried, or scared? Always give the opportunity for kids to share their own feelings. This is often where their misconceptions and anxiety will come out. Charlee asked if you stay sick forever, so I was able to compare it to the year she had the flu and how she was sick for a little while, but then recovered. She also asked if everyone goes to the hospital, so we talked about how different people need different medical help to get better. Then she asked if people died from it, and I so badly wanted to say, “You don’t need to worry about that!” But, I told her that yes, some people whose bodies were not strong enough to fight the virus did die. Fight the urge here to give nice answers and be honest with your kids as is age appropriate.

4 – Use this opportunity to talk about faith. As Christian parents, one of the most impactful things we can do for our kids is frame current events in the context of our faith. This teaches our kids that God is a part of our whole world, not just in a building on Sundays. When Charlee asked about people dying, we talked about how our bodies are not meant to live on earth forever and she quickly replied, “I know mommy, we’re all going to go to Heaven!” We also talked about how some people are scared, but we don’t need to be because the God who created the whole universe is on our side! We even started down the road of God being good, even when bad things happen. These are conversations that she and I will continue for the next 10 years and it’s so important to plant the seeds of them now.

5 – Keep the conversation going. Always end important conversations by saying, “Can we talk about this again some other time?” I thanked Charlee for telling me what she had heard and reinforced that I always want her to come to me to talk about things that might make her feel worried, scared, or confused. Keeping this conversation line open with your kids is invaluable. Plan to check in with your kids every couple days to see how they’re feeling.

I hope these tips are helpful to you. I encourage you to have a conversation with your kids about the Corona Virus today — you’d rather them hear it from you than from somebody else! Drop a comment here and let us know how it goes!

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