Tips to Maintain a Healthy Dialogue

With so many updates about coronavirus, it comes as no surprise that this flood of information is causing a lot of anxiety and worry in us, as well as our kids. If you’re struggling with how to talk to your kids about the coronavirus, you’re not alone. To help get you started with this critical conversation, we’ve provided some tips on talking to kids in a way that they will understand while also easing their anxieties about COVID-19. Here are some tips to encourage a healthy conversation with your child about the coronavirus: 

Check Your Anxiety Level First 

With all the media coverage of new cases and deaths from the coronavirus, it’s very common for adults to have anxiety—and it’s quite understandable for kids to be worried about themselves and their parents. Because of the heightened level of worry for kids, parents must check their own.

Determine What Your Child Knows 

Ask your child to tell you what they know about the coronavirus. Encourage them to share everything they’ve heard or read, even if they think it’s a rumour. You may want to write down what they say, especially if you have more than one child. The information you gather from this conversation can help you determine which facts you need to share first. Distinguish between fears and facts, and also distinguish between worrying about coronavirus and taking smart actions. For your child, their fears are real, and they need support around them from a parent who can help to mitigate concerns about the coronavirus. This may seem obvious, but to minimize confusion, make sure the information you share with your children comes from one or two solid sources. This also teaches them how to search for accurate sources., as well as the World Health Organization, are two credible options for Canadians. 

Talk About Sticking to a Routine 

The World Health Organization recommends that families keep their regular routines and schedules as much as possible. If changes need to be made, frame the conversation with a positive attitude. Kids will respond a lot better if parents remain calm and stay positive when shifting schedules to accommodate illnesses or shutdowns. This is a major disruption to their lives, so it’s important to let them know that by staying home, they are helping a lot of people stay healthy. Highlight the fact that this won’t last forever and do what you can to provide outlets for your kids to see and talk to their friends or family with Zoom, FaceTime, and other digital options for as long as they are unable to see them in person.

Be Aware of Their Behavior 

Many kids struggle with expressing their fear and concerns verbally. This can often lead to changes in behaviour. Depending on your child’s age, they may or may not have the communication skills to say how they are feeling, but most children and teens show their worries through their behaviour. Signs of stress and anxiety to look for include problems sleeping, headaches, stomach aches, or sleep problems. Be present and engaged (that means no phones) and see what your child is telling you. Are they expressing anger and frustration too easily? Or maybe they are withdrawing? Those behavioural signs can give us clear indicators of how your child is feeling, and they should serve as an alert that your child needs better support. 

It’s important that children hear accurate and helpful information about coronavirus from their parents or caregivers, rather than believing misleading or false information from friends or unreliable sources on the Internet.

Though it might be difficult at first to begin the conversation, keep in mind that afterward, both you and your child will likely feel better after discussing proactive measures to take about handwashing, telling adults if they feel unwell, and hearing them out about their fears and concerns.