Talking to Your Kids About COVID-19
Remain Calm, Have Honest Conversations
Novel coronaviris (COVID-19) has drastically changed our way of life. From shuttered schools to stay-home orders, these changes can be hard to deal with, and might be confusing and scary for kids especially. Cheryl Crowe is the director of Behavioral Health for OSF HealthCare. She says parents should try to be a calming presence for their kids while sharing information about the pandemic.
“First of all, when parents are talking to children they need to be okay, first. Because we know that anxiety and stress can be communicated interpersonally, said Crowe. "And kids are smart. They pay attention to us. They are going to take leads from us. So if they’re calm, give good information on what it is – it can make some people sick, we’re going to be making some changes. Here’s what we’re going to do together and let them talk about it.”
Children may experience heightened anxiety, especially if they experience any symptoms that are similar to those associated with COVID-19. Crowe recommends playing it safe when talking to a child who may not feel his or her best at the time.
“So if they have a fever or if they are coughing, those are things we’re going to pay attention to and get them the care that they need," said Cheryl Crowe, director, Behavioral Health, OSF HealthCare. "But the best way to protect them, really, is to spend this time together, maintain that normal routine, and just be there for them if they have any anxieties and they’re expressing that. And have good open, honest conversation.”
For younger children, it’s important to keep the message simple and reassure them any chance you get.
“Keep it specific to their developmental level," said Cheryl Crowe, director, Behavioral Health, OSF HealthCare. "We’re going to wash our hands, we’re trying to be healthy and we’re going to spend some time together and we’re going to be home watching movies and playing games. And this is a great opportunity for the older kids to give them a little more information about certainly there are people who are getting sick and that’s why these precautions are in place. So their routines may change a little bit but we’re going to work through this together.”
In addition to providing kids information that is honest and accurate, this is also a time for teaching. Remind your children to stay away from people who are coughing, sneezing or sick; remind them to cough or sneeze into a tissue or their elbow; and to always wash their hands.
OSF HealthCare has always taken a leadership role in preparing for and responding to the spread of infectious diseases. To better serve our patients and the community, OSF HealthCare has also launched digital solutions to help educate and triage people who are concerned about COVID-19. Please visit osfhealthcare.org, for more information.