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How to Talk to Your Kids About COVID-19

Updated March 13, 2020

Audrey Rider

SDSU Extension Early Childhood Field Specialist

Parents, it is important to talk to your child or children about what COVID-19 is and why it is a pandemic so they understand the cancellations and changes in their daily routines. Here are some tips from the CDC to help you talk to your children and how much information to expose them to.

  • Remain calm and reassuring. Remember that children will react to both what you say and how you say it. They will pick up cues from the conversations you have with them and with others.
  • Make yourself available to listen and to talk. Make time to talk. Be sure children know they can come to you when they have questions.
  • Avoid language that might blame others and lead to stigma. Remember that viruses can make anyone sick, regardless of a person’s race or ethnicity. Avoid making assumptions about who might have COVID-19.
  • Pay attention to what children see or hear on television, radio, or online. Consider reducing the amount of screen time focused on COVID-19. Too much information on one topic can lead to anxiety.
  • Provide information that is honest and accurate.
    • Give children information that is truthful and appropriate for the age and developmental level of the child.
    • Talk to children about how some stories on COVID-19 on the internet and social media may be based on rumors and inaccurate information.

Teach children everyday actions to reduce the spread of germs

Three children washing their hands together in a bathroom sink.
  • Remind children to stay away from people who are coughing or sneezing or sick.

  • Remind them to cough or sneeze into a tissue or their elbow, then throw the tissue into the trash.

  • Discuss any new actions that may be taken at school to help protect children and school staff. (e.g., increased handwashing, cancellation of events or activities)

  • Get children into a handwashing habit.

    • Teach them to wash their hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after blowing their nose, coughing, or sneezing; going to the bathroom; and before eating or preparing food.

    • If soap and water are not available, teach them to use hand sanitizer. Hand sanitizer should contain at least 60% alcohol. Supervise young children when they use hand sanitizer to prevent swallowing alcohol, especially in schools and childcare facilities.

Parents, please take into consideration your child’s age and how much they really need to know especially on questions about the deaths and spread of the disease. Explaining too much can cause unnecessary anxiety and lots more questions. Limit exposure to large groups and keep washing hands frequently and after contact with other individuals.