Talking to Children about COVID-19
children about COVID-19 (Coronavirus)
A Parent Resource. National
Association of School Psychologists, 2020. https://www.nasponline.org/)
Help children cope
with anxiety by providing accurate information
Children look to adults for guidance on how to react to
stressful events such COVID-19. Parents, caregivers, whanau and teachers will have
a particularly important part to play in reassuring children at this time.
Children will react to and follow your verbal and non-verbal
cues. If you are able to stay informed and realistic, it will be easier for you
to reassure children effectively as well.
Children need factual, age-appropriate information about COVID-19
so that they can also feel informed and in control. They need to know how they
can play a part in avoiding infection and the spread of virus. They also need
to feel that any fears that they may have can be talked about and addressed.
Reassure your children
If no one in your family has COVID-19 nor has
had close contact with anyone with COVID-19, emphasise to your children that
they and your family are fine.
- Remind them that the right people are working hard to keep
New Zealanders safe, including the adults at the children’s school or
early learning service.
- Let your children talk about their feelings, and help reframe their
concerns into the appropriate perspective.
You know your children best. If
they have a lot of questions, consider how much extra information would or
wouldn’t be helpful for them to know before replying.
Tips – if your
child is anxious
- Try offering children simple choices to help give them a feeling of
being in control. Would they like
to use the red towel or the white towel to dry their hands? Spend some time together - would they
like to do a puzzle or listen while you read a story? Make sure that you choose options that
are both acceptable for you, so there is no chance of getting into a power
- Help them do some deep breathing exercises. (This works for adults
too.) Gently hold their thumb with
your hand, have them breathe slowly in and out, and count out loud, “ 1”. Move your hand to hold their pointer
finger, have them breathe slowly in and out, and count “2”. Move to your
hand to hold their middle finger, have them breathe slowly in and out, and
count “3”, and so on. You can move across just one hand and count to “5”,
or both hands to count to “10”. Can
they do it for you? Can they learn
to do it for themselves – many children are now practicing mindfulness
exercises at school? Can they lie on the floor with their hand on their
tummy and feel their breathe move in and out? You can ask your child if there are any
other strategies that they know and use.
Sparklers has a range of calming activities you
could try https://sparklers.org.nz/
Children may need extra attention from you, and may want to talk about
their concerns, fears, and questions. Make time for them.
Tell them you love them, and give them plenty of affection.
children and youth do not always talk about their concerns readily. Watch for
clues that they may want to talk, such as hovering around while you do the
dishes or work. It is very typical for younger children to ask a few questions,
return to playing, then come back to ask more questions. Often they will
ask the same questions again and again as they try to make sense of things –
keep your answers simple, truthful and age appropriate. Children will be reassured by your consistent
information, provide facts calmly, remind children that adults are working to
address this concern, and give children actions they can take to protect
Maintain a normal routine
- Keep to a regular, predictable schedule to help show your
child that their daily routines are in control and will continue as
- Encourage your children to keep up with their schoolwork
and extracurricular activities, but don’t push them if they seem
Avoid blaming others
- Explain that sometimes people blame others for events they
cannot control, but that this is not correct behaviour.
- Avoid stereotyping any one group of people as responsible
for the virus.
- Report any bullying or negative comments you are aware of at
your children’s school or early learning service.
- Be aware of the influence that other adults with different
attitudes on COVID-19 have on your children. You may have to explain to
them that some people have different values from the ones that you and
your children will follow.
Monitor social media and TV
- Limit your children’s television viewing, Internet access
and social media involvement. Try to avoid watching or listening to
information that might be upsetting when your children are present.
- Let your child know that a lot of COVID-19 information on
the Internet may be based on rumours and inaccurate information.
and model basic hygiene and healthy lifestyle practices
- Talk about what you and your children what they can do to help
- Wsh hands multiple times a day for at least 20 seconds each
time (singing Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star slowly takes about 20 seconds)
and dry hands thoroughly.
- Cover their mouths with a tissue when they sneeze or cough,
and throw away the tissue immediately; or have them sneeze or cough into
the bend of their elbow.
- Do not share food or drinks.
- Practice giving fist or elbow bumps instead of handshakes.
Fewer germs are spread this way.
- Discourage the child from touching their eyes, nose, and
- Encourage your child to eat a balanced diet, get enough
sleep, and exercise regularly to develop a strong immune system for fighting
- Discuss the new rules or practices at the child’s school
or early learning service.
- Keep in contact with your child’s school or service and
let them know if there have been any changes within your family.
What to emphasize when
talking to children about school
- Adults at school are taking care of your health and safety.
- Not many people have the COVID-19, and most of those who do
will not get very unwell.
- Teachers are being especially careful to make sure that as
few people as possible get sick.
- Children and students need to treat each other with respect
and not jump to conclusions about who may or may not have COVID-19.
- There are things you can do to stay healthy and avoid
spreading the disease, including covering your cough or sneezing into your
elbow or a tissue, then throwing the tissue in the trash.
- Wash hands often with soap and water (20 seconds) and dry