Talking to Your Children About COVID-19

Taking a Moment: Mindful ways to cope during the COVID-19 pandemic

Aron Steward, PhD

Today I'm going to talk to you about talking to your children about COVID-19.

A lot of you have asked me how to do that, and it's really important that you feel comfortable as a parent going home and explaining the pandemic the way that you want to, to your children. Our feelings are most important and parenting is incredibly important for you to be able to come to work and perform.

So the tip of the day is talking to your children about COVID-19, and I want you to think about a couple of really important steps. The first step is choosing the developmentally appropriate language for the age that your children are. You know your children better than anybody. So what you want to think about is what they can digest, what they can understand and then choosing language that matches their developmental age.

The second step is be honest. Be as honest as you possibly can, because kids are like little detectives. They'll know if you're not telling them the truth, and it builds credibility and trust. And at the end of the day, all they want is to know that you will tell them the truth. So be honest. Talk about safety. COVID-19 makes all of us feel unsafe, especially children, and so they're wondering what is safe. Where is safe? Who is safe? So tell them that. Tell them what they can count on that is safe.

Also, kids ask the same questions over and over and over. They're not trying to be annoying. It's not that they don't understand. They're looking for reassurance to see if you'll say the same thing and give them the same answers. They're looking for that credibility, trust and reassurance.

The last thing that I want you to think about is building a culture of curiosity inside your house. Teach your children how to ask questions and find answers. Finding real answers and real information and asking real questions teaches them that you don't always know the answers. And that that's okay. They also don't always know the answers, and that is okay.

Robert Althoff, MD and Aron Steward , PhD from CVPH Psychiatry offer tips and information about coping during this time of crisis.