Talking to Your Child About COVID

Coral Gables Counseling Center - Tuesday, March 17, 2020
By Erika Fernandez De Castro

We live in a time where our children are more exposed to information channels than ever before. With the anxiety and panic created by the COVID-19 virus, our children will be even more exposed to an overload of information, some of which is unreliable. Children feel both vulnerable and worried when they are kept in the dark. Now, perhaps more than ever, they will rely on information from those they most trust. It is in times like this that they will look to us parents for our leadership. It is incumbent on all of us parents to rise to the moment and meet that need.

girl with mask
Considering the many disruptions the virus has brought to our everyday routines, many parents may not be thinking about communicating information to their children about it and social distancing. However, communicating information about the virus and social distancing is essential to help your child navigate and adjust to this temporary life change.

Here are a few helpful suggestions about talking to your child/children about COVID-19.

First, before addressing your children, it is important as a parent to check in with your feelings about the pandemic. If you are overanxious about the pandemic, consider tempering your anxiety and feelings when discussing it with your children. Be aware that your children are keenly attuned to your actions and conversations regarding the virus. Be consistent in your actions with the message you give them.

boy with maskSecond, be honest with your child/children. Follow your child’s lead and keep information factual and developmentally appropriate. Focus on the precautions that your family is adhering to and emphasize that children are less likely to get the virus.

Now that schools are practicing distance learning, set up a workspace for your child. Establish a routine that your child/children can rely on. Routine in children creates a sense of predictability. Having a routine can ease worries about distance learning and social distancing.

Most children will miss interacting with their friends. If your child does not have a smartphone, schedule a Facetime/Skype session with a friend and/or family member. Seeing a loved one via Facetime or Skype will reassure them of their safety.

playground shut down

Outdoor time is important during social distancing. If you have access to a backyard, encourage outdoor play. Taking a walk with your child or even bike riding is a great way to exercise with your child and get your daily dose of Vitamin D (Just remember to keep a 3 feet distance between yourself and anyone else).

These suggestions will hopefully make social distancing easier for you and your children. As it becomes more prominent, some children may have difficulties adjusting to their “new normal”. Below is a list of worrisome behaviors that children may exhibit:

  1. Fearfulness to the extent that he or she is unable to concentrate on anything else other than the virus.
  2. Excessive worrying about it.
  3. Sudden onset of physical symptoms such as headaches, muscular tension, stomach aches, heart palpitations, and/or restlessness.
  4. Noticeable changes in sleep patterns and/or eating patterns.

If your child is exhibiting these symptoms, please contact his or her pediatrician. If they already see a mental practitioner, contact them to set up an appointment. CGCC will be providing telehealth services and is prepared to address your needs.

Most importantly, take this unexpected time with your family to reconnect (especially if you have teens) and be creative in discovering safe ways to pass and share the time!