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14 key points to talk to your kids about this pandemic

14 key points to talk to your kids about this pandemic

It is all over the news. It’s in most discussions going on here in the Hudson Valley and across the state, country, and the world.  Our kids have been asked to break their routines, spend more time indoors, are prevented from seeing their friends, and now see their parents and neighbors wearing masks and staying far apart.

Some kids are more verbal than others in sharing their fears and concerns. Some are better at asking questions. The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry offers a rather lengthy list of dos and don’ts for approaching our kid’s deepest fears.

While there are no right or wrong ways to talk to our kids, preparing for that talk may make that conversation a bit easier on all.

  1. Create an open and supportive environment where children know they can ask questions. At the same time, it’s best not to force children to talk about things unless and until they’re ready.

  2. Answer questions honestly. Children will usually know, or eventually find out if you’re making things up. It may affect their ability to trust what you say or your reassurances in the future.

  3. Use words and concepts your children can understand. Gear your explanations to your child’s age, language, and developmental level.

  4. Help your kids find accurate and up to date information. Print out Fact Sheets from the CDC.

  5. Be prepared to repeat information and explanations several times. Some information may be hard to accept or understand. Asking the same question over and over may also be a way for a child to ask for reassurance.

  6. Acknowledge and validate your child’s thoughts, feelings, and reactions. Let them know that you think their questions and concerns are important and appropriate.

  7. Remember that children tend to personalize situations. For example, they may worry about their own safety and the safety of immediate family members. They may also worry about friends or relatives who travel or who live far away.

  8. Be reassuring, but don’t make unrealistic promises. It’s fine to let children know that they are safe in their house or in their school. But you can’t promise that there will be no cases of coronavirus in your state or community.

  9. Let your children know that there are lots of people helping the people affected by the coronavirus outbreak. It’s a good opportunity to show children that when something scary or bad happens, there are people to help.

  10. Children learn from watching their parents and teachers. They will be very interested in how you respond to news about the coronavirus outbreak. They also learn from listening to your conversations with other adults.

  11. Don’t let children watch too much television with frightening images. The repetition of such scenes can be disturbing and confusing.

  12. Children who have experienced serious illness or losses in the past are particularly vulnerable to prolonged or intense reactions to graphic news reports or images of illness or death. These children may need extra support and attention.

  13. Children who are preoccupied with questions or concerns about the coronavirus outbreak should be evaluated by a trained and qualified mental health professional. Other signs that a child may need additional help include: ongoing sleep disturbances, intrusive thoughts or worries, recurring fears about illness or death, reluctance to leave parents or go to school. If such behaviors persist, ask your child’s pediatrician or family physician arrange an appropriate referral. Many professionals offer visits remotely.

  14. Although parents and teachers may follow the news and the daily updates with interest and attention, most children just want to be children. They may not want to think about what’s happening across the country or elsewhere in the world. They’d rather play ball, climb trees or ride bikes.  



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