How to talk to children about COVID-19

AMBER BORDEN | 3/19/2020, midnight
The coronavirus is continuing to dominate everyday conversation. With schools, businesses, and jobs closing there is a new normal Americans ...
Washing hands Cade Martin, Dawn Arlotta, USCDCP/Pixino/Public Domain photo

The coronavirus is continuing to dominate everyday conversation. With schools, businesses, and jobs closing there is a new normal Americans have to adapt to. For parents of young children this unpredictable time can be unnerving and it can be difficult to have a serious conversation with their young children about COVID-19.

COVID-19 seems to spare young children and be killing the elderly. According to the World Health Organization, in China only 2.4% of reported cases were children and only 0.2% of those cases were of children who were critically ill. China has also reported no case of a young child dying of the coronavirus. For ages 10 to 39 the fatality rate is about 0.2.

What can parents say about COVID-19 to their children?

The new normal of being quarantined and social distancing takes away from play dates, birthday parties, and days at the park for young children. It is recommended that parents do not change the subject or alter the truth. Kidshealth.org advises parents to work with their child, by finding out what they already know, offering them a space of comfort to express any fears they have, and to keep the conversation going by putting news stories into context. “The most important thing across ages is that children need to know that they’ re going to be OK and chances are their parents are going to be OK,” said Tovah Klein, director of the Barnard Center for Toddler Development at Columbia University to CNN.

The CDC recommends that parents teach their children actions that they can take every day to reduce the spread of germs. “Teach them to wash their hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after blowing their nose, coughing, or sneezing; going to the bathroom; and before eating or preparing food.”

Conversations about the coronavirus should not generate panic for parents with young children, but should be taken as an opportunity to inform and further the practice of healthy habits at home.