What to Tell Children about the Coronavirus Pandemic.

Parents and teachers are now faced with the need to tell children and adolescents about the coronavirus pandemic. These discussion scan appear difficult or anxiety-provoking, but they are nevertheless necessary. There are no right or wrong ways per se of addressing children in the face of such public health emergencies. However, we have a few suggestions we think may be helpful:

  • Create an open and safe discussion space for children’s questions about the pandemic. However, it tis best not to talk about these topics until they are ready.
  • Answer questions as honestly as possible. Children will necessarily know if things are hidden from them. This could impact their ability to trust and res=assure themselves with adults afterwards.
  • Use words and concepts that children can understand; adapted to their age and language levels as well.
  • Help children find relevant sources of information such as daily updated data.
  • Prepare to have to repeat the information and explanations several times. Some information may be difficult to understand or accept. Asking the same question over and over again is sometimes a way for children to seek reassurance.
  • Recognise and validate children’s thoughts, feelings and reactions. Let them know that we think their questions and concerns are legitimate and important.
  • Remember that children tend to personalise situations. For example, they may be specifically concerned about their personal safety and that of their immediate relatives. They may also worry about their friends or family who are traveling or living abroad.
  • Be reassuring but without making unrealistic promises. It is important to let children know that they are safe in their homes or schools. But do not make them the promise that there will be no cases of coronavirus in their country or in their communities.
  • Do not hide from children that the entire population is affected and immobilized by the coronavirus pandemic. This is a good opportunity to show children that when adversity arises on a collective scale, we build on each other.
  • Children learn from their parents and teachers. They are very interested to see how adults close to them are reacting to the coronavirus pandemic. It may therefore be important not to systematically hide conversations between adults on the subject from them.

Credits: Karine Trioullier, Clinical Psychologist with the National Council for Children (NCC)