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March 15, 2020

How should I talk to my child about COVID-19?

Here are some resources to help you talk with your child about COVID-19.

If you have suggestions to add to this list, please email them to info@ksd.org.

U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

The agency offered up the following tips to helping children deal with the outbreak:

  • 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 conversations you have with them and others.

  • Make yourself available to listen and to talk. Be sure children know they can come to you with 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 age appropriate, and 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.

The agency also has compiled extensive information on helping children cope with emergencies.

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National Association of School Psychologists and National Association of School Nurses:

The organizations put together a document, Talking to Children About COVID-19 (Coronavirus) - A Parent Resource, to help parents provide accurate information and facts without causing undue alarm.

The document is also available is several other languages, including Spanish, Chinese, Korean and Amharic.

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Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration

The agency has a fact sheet with strategies for parents, caregivers and teachers to use to help children manage stress during an infectious disease outbreak. The document is available at http://bit.ly/33oL3y0.

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KidsHealth

The nonprofit children's health system recommends the following steps to help parents talk with their children about COVID-19:

  • Find out what your child already knows by asking questions geared to their age level. Examples: For older kids, ask, "Are people in school talking about coronavirus? What are they saying?"  And for younger kids, ask, "Have you heard grownups talking about a new sickness that's going around?" Also, follow their lead in talking, or not talking too much, about coronavirus.

  • Offer comfort and honesty. Be honest, but focus on helping your child feel safe and don't overwhelm them with details they aren't interested in.

  • Give your child specific things to help them feel in control, such as teaching them that getting enough sleep and properly washing their hands helps them stay healthy. Put news stories into context and let your child know it's normal to feel stressed out sometimes.

  • Keep the conversation going by checking with your child often and talking about current events.

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Other Resources

Here are some other resources you may use to talk about the coronavirus with students: