7 tips on how to talk to your children/teens during the coronavirus quarantine
By: Julie Stucke, PhD, pediatric psychology
With all of the school closures, cancellations of extracurricular activities and vacations, and changes in daily routines, many children and teens are likely feeling anxious about the coronavirus pandemic. You may have had conversations early on about what was happening but it's important to have ongoing conversations as their emotions and thoughts may have changed.
7 tips on how to talk to your children/teens during the coronavirus quarantine:
- Listen. Invite your children to tell you what they have heard about the coronavirus. Do not dismiss fear or any other feelings they might be experiencing. Give your children the opportunity to ask any questions they have. This is a chance for you to give your children the facts (as you know them) and correct any misinformation or frightening fantasies they have created.
- Use developmentally appropriate language. Answer your children’s questions using words they understand. Do not volunteer too much information that may overwhelm or confuse them. Be honest if you don’t have the answers to their questions and suggest you search for the answers together at a reputable online website (e.g., https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html).
- Mange your own anxiety. Children tend to pick up on parents’ emotional states, so if you are panicked or stressed, they are likely to feel this way. Turn to your own support systems (e.g., friends, counselor) to help you cope with your own anxiety, and be sure you are feeling calm when you talk with your children about the coronavirus.
- Be reassuring and comforting. Children often worry about their own safety or the safety of their family members. Reassure your children that most kids who get the virus are exhibiting milder symptoms. Explain that events are being cancelled and people are being asked to stay home to prevent the spread of the virus, particularly to older, more vulnerable adults.
- Focus on what children can do. Explain the coronavirus is spread mainly by coughing and touching surfaces. Discuss the importance of good hand hygiene with your children and suggest they can help by washing their hands with soap and water for 20 seconds (the time it takes to sing the “Happy Birthday” song twice) at various times of the day (e.g., after blowing their nose, after sneezing or coughing, after using the bathroom, before eating, after playing outdoors).
- Maintain routines. Children function best when they know what to expect, so keeping regular routines and schedules as much as possible is important. Try to maintain regular bedtimes, wake times, and meals. New routines will likely need to be created for new situations (e.g., being home schooled).
- Share acts of kindness. Children can be comforted by hearing stories about compassionate people taking action to help others. Share stores you hear about health workers, scientists, and others who are working to stop the outbreak.