Talking to Students About COVID-19
It is inevitable that the topic of COVID-19 will come up in conversations with your children. Below are important things to remember when discussing a pandemic with children.
Model being calm and rational: Our students look to us for cues about how to feel and act in challenging circumstances. If we present as calm and rational, students are more likely to feel safe and secure. As the example in our homes, we need to establish our own resources and coping mechanisms so we can be a source of reassurance for our children.
Stick to the facts: Consult fact sheets for kids and teens/adults (links below). Avoid sharing or reinforcing rumors or unconfirmed information. Remember that it is okay to acknowledge what we don’t know, and avoid saying unconfirmed things in an effort to make children feel better.
Validate feelings, remember resources, and remind children of what we can do to stay safe: Students may share that they feel scared or nervous. Others may feel relieved and excited to be back at school. It’s important to acknowledge the wide range of emotions students could be experiencing and normalize that all these feelings are okay and accepted. If students share concerns looking for reassurance:
- Validate that their feelings are normal
- Remind them of resources to help cope
- Discuss action items to keep ourselves and others safe. Tangible actions can decrease feelings of anxiety and minimize potential trauma.
For example: “I hear that you’re worried and scared, and that’s okay; we might be feeling lots of different feelings right now. We are here to support each other as a family. Remember that there are many things we can do to keep ourselves and others safe, like wearing a mask, keeping distance from others, and washing our hands or using hand sanitizer often.”
Develop and maintain predictable routines: Children feel safer when they know what to expect. Now, more than ever, routines are crucial to creating feelings of safety. Ensure that routines are well-established, and spend adequate time teaching and reinforcing these routines
Avoid language that blames others: When in crisis, it is a typical human response to look for someone or something who is at fault. As parents, we must avoid language that blames others and leads to stigma, as well as redirect if we hear it from others.