Children around the world are adjusting to a drastically different lifestyle. With schools around the world closed and playdates, dance classes, and playgrounds closed, children may struggle to understand why their life has been turned upside down. Parents and au pairs may be wondering how to explain Coronavirus (COVID-19) to children and how to help ease their concerns.
Here are some tips for parents and au pairs on how to explain Coronavirus (COVID-19) to children:
1. Stay calm
Try to control your own anxieties about the current situation. Children can notice both verbal and non-verbal cues. Model healthy self-care as much as possible during this time.
2. Use facts at an age-appropriate level
Ask children what they already know about the virus and provide age-appropriate facts. Tailor the information you share to the child’s developmental levels and needs.
3. Listen to their concerns
Offer a supportive ear to children. Listen to their questions and what aspects they are struggling with the most during this time.
4. Encourage focusing on the “helpers” in the world
Instead of focusing on all the fear and negativity, try to draw attention to the people working hard to help others and stop the disease’s spread.
5. Focus on how to stay healthy
Practice proper handwashing and remind children not to touch their faces and mouths. Make sure children know to cover their mouths with a tissue or the inside of their elbow when coughing or sneezing.
How to answer children’s questions about Coronavirus (COVID-19):
1. “What is Coronavirus (COVID-19)?”
Coronavirus (COVID-19) is a very contagious virus. Symptoms include a fever, cough, body aches, and trouble breathing. Children usually have much milder symptoms.
2. “Why is social distancing important?”
Social distancing is important to keep our community safe. It is possible to have Coronavirus (COVID-19) without symptoms, and accidentally infect others around you. By remaining home as much as possible, we can limit the spread of the virus and make sure hospitals and doctors can treat everyone who needs their help.
3. “Why do I have to wash my hands so much?”
Handwashing is one of the best ways to keep yourself and others healthy. Patiently remind children to wash their hands often with soap and water. Scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds. Adults can make handwashing fun by having children sing the “Happy Birthday” song twice (approximately 20 seconds). Ask au pairs if they have a fun song for children that is an equal length. The CDC has more tips for making handwashing a family activity.
4. “When can I go back to school or see my friends?”
School-aged children may be asking when they can return to school and see their friends. Assure them that you are keeping up to date on when schools are opening again. Explain that while you understand they miss their friends, it’s important to practice social distancing to keep everyone safe and healthy. Consider allowing children to chat with their friends and family members on apps like Messenger Kids or Skype.
5. “I’m bored – what am I supposed to do?”
It is understandable to feel restless while stuck at home. There are lots of fun activities for children and au pairs that can be done at home. Now is a great time to deepen bonds between your family and au pair and experience cultural exchange.
6. “I’m scared – will we be alright? Will my parents and grandparents be alright?”
This is one of the trickiest questions for parents and au pairs to navigate, since you can’t definitively say that the virus won’t hit your family. Instead, focus on the fact that you are all doing everything possible to stay healthy and that health care workers are there for you if you do fall ill.
Assure children that we can get through this difficult time
In this uncertain time, adults can comfort children by showing how we are working together as a global community to fight this virus. The best thing parents and au pairs can stress to children is that we are all in this situation together and we are working hard to keep each other safe.