Children are curious and will ask questions about COVID-19. This is understandable given that they are hearing about it everywhere they turn. Some of them are afraid of the current situation and others just want to better understand what is happening around them.
In order to put children at ease when asked about COVID-19, these are some steps and tips you could use that can aid in the conversation (Adapted from recommendations by the CBC, Unicef, Kids Health, and the CDC).
- Remain calm when having the conversation. Sounding panicked or stressed will further frighten children. Children need those they look up to to be reassuring.
- Provide them with age appropriate answers. Explain things to them in ways they can comprehend. Make sure to pay attention to their reactions and try to be sensitive to how anxious they may be.
- Be honest. Only tell children what you know. Make sure you’re staying informed from sources that are approved by OSCA and the City of Ottawa which are: Ottawa Public Health, World Health Organization and CDC.
- Tell them how they can help protect themselves and others. Explain the importance of washing their hands well, staying home if they’re sick, sneezing into their elbow, etc.
- Model preventative behaviours and show children proper hand washing techniques. You can make it fun too, for example, by singing a song along with the handwashing.
- Make sure they (and you) are not spreading stigma. Remind them that everyone can get sick - it has nothing to do with race or ethnicity.
- Explain how others are helping each other. You can point out how hard doctors, nurses, scientists, etc. are working together to help people. It can be comforting for children to know people are helping others.
- Limit exposure to the news. Don’t keep them in the dark and turn the news off completely, but limiting the amount of news they watch/read is important.
- Finish your conversation with care. Make sure the child isn’t more anxious. Reassure them and remind them that you are available to help if they need it.