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How to explain COVID-19 to your children

April 9, 2020 • read

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How to explain COVID-19 to your children

With COVID-19 leading headlines across Canada and around the globe, the likelihood that your children have seen the news is rather high. Whether they heard about the virus on the news, on social media, or from their peers at school, it can be a particularly stressful situation for them. However, it can be equally difficult to explain what’s going on to kids, especially because it’s out of our control. 

Together with our friends at Babysits, we believe that explaining important issues like COVID-19 can be done in a child-friendly manner. That’s why it’s crucial to explain it to them in a way that makes them understand the urgency around the protective measures you’ve put in place. But that said, you also don’t want to scare them unnecessarily. Here are our tips:

Ask them questions

It’s important to gauge your child(ren)’s understanding of what’s going on prior to moving deeper into explaining what COVID-19 is. You may add to their anxiety if you explain things to them that they didn’t know about in the first place or are too complicated. To do this, ask questions to figure out what they may already have heard. Be sure to include some open ended questions in the conversation. This can help you have a better understanding of how they’re feeling about the situation. It’ll also help them discuss their understanding of what the virus is, where it originated and more.

It’s possible some of these topics can lead to other important issues such as potential xenophobia. This is a great opportunity to explain why xenophobia is wrong. The most important thing is that everyone looks out for each other and works together.

Lastly, make sure they know that you are always open for their questions, big or small. 

Explain what a virus is

In general, children might not be able to understand or grasp the concept of what a virus is or how it spreads. But it’s essential information before they can fully understand the urgency and necessity behind strict hygiene and social distancing measures. As a parent, it is important to know the facts yourself, and this article about Everything you need to know about Coronavirus can certainly help! However, children will likely require a more simplified explanation, so to put it more simply:

A virus is a very, very tiny and invisible organism that likes to travel between humans. Some of these small organisms don’t harm people, others are bad and make people sick. The Coronavirus is one of those viruses that can make people sick. One big problem of a virus is that it will travel from your body to someone else’s body without any of you noticing. That’s why we have to be very careful and do everything we can to protect ourselves and others.

Source: World Health Organisation (WHO)

Reassure them that they are safe

In order to reduce potential fear, stress, and anxiety, it’s important to reassure children that they’re in a safe environment. Explain the potential dangers to people in higher-risk groups, such as elderly people or people with underlying health conditions. This may make it easier for them to understand why they see their grandparents less or have reduced social activities. 

Explain the measures

Many adults are feeling powerless or overwhelmed by the situation and these feelings can be amplified in children. In order to bring some control back, take preventative measures together with your family. From practicing good hygiene, to social distancing and self-quarantine, there are plenty of things you can do. If you are staying in, also make sure to explain to your kids why it’s important and how it can prevent the virus from spreading.

A super easy experiment shared by teacher, Amanda Lorenzo, from Florida, shows kids how washing their hands with soap can rid the virus from their hands. All you need is a bowl filled with water, some pepper and soap:

You can ask them to imagine the ground pepper as the organisms of the virus spreading on their hands if they don’t wash them regularly. However, soap is their best friend and helper! Show them how the ground pepper moves away from their finger as soon as they put some soap on it. That’s exactly how the virus disappears from their hands when they wash them correctly.

Show them alternatives

No matter how uncertain or scary the current situation is, it’s important to stay positive. Use this opportunity to show your children the advantages of today’s digital and connected world. Whether it might be a video call with the grandparents, an online kids yoga class or an online tutoring class, there are endless possibilities to use the internet to stay in touch with the world. You can even use Babysits to coordinate a remote babysitter to play and learn with your child via video call now. 

Keep a daily routine

Last but not least, we recommend you keep a daily routine, especially when you’re staying in and practicing social distancing. Get up at a reasonable time, get dressed in the mornings and start your day as usual. If your kids are doing virtual or home schooling, provide them with a dedicated, quiet work space. That means one with all the necessary materials like pens, paper and learning materials. Make sure they understand it’s not going to be an extended school vacation. Instead, it’s a time when we have to adapt to new learning environments at home.

It’s important to keep the balance between informing kids about what they need to know while making sure they aren’t unnecessarily stressed. It’s an uncertain time but also an opportunity to learn new routines, stay positive and grow together as a family. 

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