How to explain COVID-19 to your child

The world is a very different place right now, even from a child’s perspective. They can’t visit their friends, are learning from home, can’t go shopping with mommy and daddy, not going out to eat, and in most places, they must wear a mask outside. All this can be overwhelming, even more so if your child does not understand what is going on. Talking about COVID-19 with your children is very important, including explaining to your kids what the coronavirus is and its impact on things right now. 


Be age-appropriate


Of course, the way you explain COVID-19 to a 4-year-old will be very different from how you explain it to a 14-year-old. You know your child best and what they can hear without getting anxious or what will settle their curiosity level. Keep things simple for younger kids, just explain that there is a virus that makes people sick, so by staying inside and away from other people, we can keep ourselves and others safe. A preteen or teen would benefit from more information, like learning the symptoms of COVID-19 or even may like to follow the news with you to stay up to date. 


Be truthful


When talking about COVID-19, your child will likely have questions. Divulge as much or as little as you feel is appropriate, but remain truthful. You can always downplay parts as you feel is needed. For example, the hard question: “Do people die from coronavirus?” might catch you off guard and make you want to reassure your child. However, they may hear things on TV and from people talking or might have a classmate who has experienced a death in the family. Honesty is really the best policy, but you can tone down the answer by saying something like, “Only a very small number of people die. Most people don’t get very sick and don’t need to even go to the hospital. And that is why we are staying home and wearing masks so we can be safe, and we have a very good hospital and good doctors so if we get sick we will have the best care!” 


Be reassuring


This was touched on in the previous points, but it deserves its own space as well. Whatever you choose to share, be reassuring, because let’s face it: the coronavirus can be pretty scary to adults, too. Arm yourself with reassuring facts. For example, are the cases in your state lessening? Are hospitals seeing fewer COVID patients? Tell your child that children are (in general) the least affected by this virus. Remind them of all the things you all are doing to ensure your family stays safe. If you notice them feeling anxious or worried, show them everything you do on a daily basis to keep the virus away. Perhaps a family member who works outside the home showers and changes clothes after coming home. Things like that can help your child feel safe. Talking about COVID-19 does not need to be scary. 


A good and reliable reference about COVID-19 from HealthyChildren.org (sponsored by the American Academy of Pediatrics).


For more health and wellness blogs and parenting tips, check out the blog section of our MVP Pediatric and Urgent Care website.