How to Help Young Children Understand Covid-19 More Easily
STORY: Priyanka Elhence
24 August 2020
As hard as this pandemic has been on us adults, it’s even harder on young children who probably don’t fully grasp what Covid-19 is about. Not being able to play with their friends as normal is hard on kids, as is having to wash with soap and sanitizers all the time, and wearing a daily mask or shield. But children are very observant and absorb more than we give them credit for. It’s important to talk openly and honestly with young children to help reduce unnecessary worry and confusion that their curious minds and active imaginations may have cooked up.
Here’s our advice on how to help little ones understand Covid-19 more easily:
1. Speak in a calm and reassuring voice
Kids are very perceptive and quickly pick up on when parents are worried or not being completely honest. Although a grim problem, talk about the pandemic in a calm and controlled manner so that they don’t worry more, not when you’re already stressed or panicked.
2. Start by asking what they know already
Let your child lead the conversation. Ask them what they understand about Covid-19 and share their fears with you. With so many sources of information that they are exposed to these days, it’s easy for them to get overwhelmed with too much information.
3. Don’t add your worries to their anxiety
Deal with your own anxiety before dealing with your child’s anxiety. Young children pick up on body language very fast, so focus just on them and their needs. Let your child know that it’s ok to feel worried at times, because even adults get worried from time to time. But help them build resilience by knowing that even hard times also pass eventually.
4. Be honest with them
Just because they’re small doesn’t mean they don’t deserve the truth. But that doesn’t mean that you need to have all the answers too either. If your child asks about something you don't know the answer to, it’s better to be honest and say “I don’t know”, rather than make something up that isn’t true to give your child false reassurances. Remember, being honest now is a great opportunity to help your child build resilience by teaching them how to tolerate uncertainty and manage anxiety. Promise to keep them updated by sharing any new information with them when you have it.
5. Remind them of the safety precautions you’re taking as a family
Tell your child that young children seem to be less affected than adults by the pandemic. And then remind them of what you’re doing as a family to stay safe. Reassure them that by simply washing their hands frequently and properly each time, they are already doing a great job in keeping everyone safe. Keep reminding them to cough or sneeze into a tissue or their elbow, dispose of the tissue immediately, and let an adult know immediately if they start feeling unwell or hot.
6. Empower them
Young children feel empowered when they have a sense of responsibility and are given specific tasks to help them feel like they are in control. Make your child responsible for washing their hands regularly and making others do the same so that they can help stop the spread of the virus.