Here we go again. Just when we thought things were getting better, we are faced with another surge of COVID-19. Depending on age, you might have talked to your child about the Coronavirus in March 2020. But, whether this is your first conversation about the virus or your 100th, striking the right balance between honesty, appropriateness, and support is key.
As you prepare to talk to your child about the COVID-19 surge, keep in mind the following tips.
How to talk to children about the COVID-19 surge
1. Use clear and age appropriate language. Your child’s age is an important factor to how you decide to discuss this subject matter. Focus less on the details for young children, instead use the time as an opportunity to let them know you will protect them.
2. Share what you know, be honest, and don’t feel the need to overshare. There is no need to share statistics or symptoms that are going to cause anxiety for your child. Instead, be transparent about the general state of the surge and open up the floor for their questions and feelings.
3. Keep in mind what you think they want to know. Focus on answering both their spoken and unspoken questions. In times like these, children’s questions often center around: Am I safe? Are my parents safe? So, try to answer accordingly, even if they don’t come out and say it.
To help you with these difficult conversations, we’ve broken down how to talk to your child about the COVID-19 surge by age group, so that you know you are having the right type of talk with your child.
Talking to children about COVID-19 by age
For children aged 2-3 years old:
What you can say:
“There’s a sickness right now, so some people are getting sick and they need to stay home to get better. We can wear masks and play at home to keep our friends and neighbors healthy. Pretty soon it will get better and we can go back to places like______ and see_____ (fill in anything your young child may be missing). We know how to take care of you and have lots of ______ (fill in with at home comforts: movies, stuffed animals, blankets) to stay at home and be safe and cozy.”
Then, you can talk a little about what you will need to do if you or they become sick.
“If we get sick, we will need to stay home and rest to get better. We can have lots of soup and ice cream.”
For a preschool aged child:
What you can say:
“COVID is spreading a lot again. This time it’s a little bit the same and a little bit different than last time. We need to keep our masks on more often again and give more space with friends for a bit. We’ll have fewer playdates and visit the play gyms and playgrounds a bit less right now. We may need to stay at home for a week or two. (Share details here to personalize it). It’s ok to have big feelings about it. I know I do, too. (Leave space for them to ask questions and share feelings)."
When they ask questions:
You don’t need to have all the answers. You can say, “I hear you thinking and wondering about…..I know, I’m curious about that, too. What I do know is that…” Just try to be honest with your child without scaring them. Keep it as positive as possible and let them know you are in the same boat as they are.
For older children:
What you can say:
“I want to offer you the space to share what’s on your mind about the recent increase in COVID-19 cases. Do you have anything you are wondering about or unsure about?”
If they don’t have much to say:
You can share what you feel is the same or different from March 2020 and the first COVID-19 surge. Let them know how you are feeling, be honest without scaring them, and answer their questions the best that you can. Then, try to end on a positive note by talking about what you are looking forward to when the numbers go down again.
As we go through this new COVID-19 surge, remember that children are good at picking up your own anxieties. Try to quell your fears and remind yourself and your children that we got through this before and we will do it again. If you have any questions about the COVID-19 vaccine for kids under 12 or summer camp and COVID-19, check out our guide.
One of the best ways to keep children active and having fun while staying home is through online classes, camps, and events. You can check out Sawyer for hundreds of online and in-person activities for children of all ages.