How to Talk to Your Kids about COVID-19
A Thoughtful Approach to Conversations 10 Tips to Help Your Kids Feel Safe, Not Scared Schools and community organizations around the country have begun announcing closures due to coronavirus (COVID-19).
Keep in mind that children often follow their parents' lead when it comes to responding to a crisis. Children are like sponges and absorb their parents' reactions, words, and energy. If you're feeling anxious, that's natural. Part of the reason is that you're having your own feelings about what you or your family may be facing. And you may be worried about saying or doing the wrong thing—remind yourself that it's okay to struggle and even to make mistakes. But also remember that you are there for your children, not the other way around. Before you share with your kids, give yourself the time you need to notice and process those feelings, so that you can be fully present to your children's needs and feelings.
Helping our children hold onto faith will help cultivate peace, meaning, and purpose amidst concerns they may have about COVID-19. Let them know it's common to feel confused and nervous during trying times. Share encouraging stories, songs, scriptures or prayers. Remind them that God is with us even in difficult times.
PRAY & PREPARE TOGETHER
By praying together, you are modeling for your children what it looks like to put your faith in God and to trust God above all else. Praying together helps you and your children access a wellspring of hope. You are not going through this alone: you’re with each other, and God is with you. Offering up our prayers helps remind children of God's love and of the truth that we are not alone when we feel scared. Then model healthy ways your family can take together to help reduce your family’s risk to COVID-19.
READ THE BIBLE TOGETHER
The Bible has lots to say about God’s love, especially in times of adversity. Bible stories together through this lens, we can discover what God has to say about what faithfully responding and loving our neighbors during difficult times looks like. Here are some passages to read together and discuss as a family (e.g., Philippians 4:6-7; I Corinthians 12:18, 20; 2 Timothy 1:7). End with prayer to help you make the lessons of the story real in your lives.
Seek to instill hope among your family. Keep in mind that hope doesn’t mean everything is going to work out how you long for things to be. Hope doesn’t mean the problem will go away. Instead think of hope as what keeps you going in the face of adversity, and as Christians our ultimate hope is that we cannot be separated from the love of God (Romans 8:38-39). Instill hope into the conversation by embracing what has helped your family find strength, meaning, and comfort in other difficult situations.
Sometimes children may feel responsible for events that are entirely beyond their control. When it's not clear that there is a plan in place to face COVID-19, children may, in some way, feel they must bear the weight of that responsibility. When you reassure children that the adults are managing the situation, you give them permission to be children.
DISCUSS WHAT THEY ARE HEARING
Kids pick up on more than we realize. With COVID-19 so heavily in the news, odds are they have heard things on TV, at school, at church, or from you that they don’t fully understand. Whether it’s in the car, at the dinner table, or while playing ping-pong, ask your children questions like: Have you heard anything new about coronavirus? Who did you hear it from? Listen carefully, affirm their feelings about what they’re hearing, help fill in any knowledge gaps, and answer questions they may have.
Contributors: Jamie Aten, Ph.D., is founder and executive director of the Humanitarian Disaster Institute at Wheaton College. Follow on Twitter at @drjamieaten or visit jamieaten.com. Kent Annan, M.Div., is director of Humanitarian & Disaster Leadership at Wheaton College. Follow on Twitter at @kentannan or visit kentannan.com.