How to talk to children about coronavirus

Don’t spread fear to your child, doctor says

A child wears a medical mask as a precaution against the spread of the new coronavirus, during an outing in Mexico City, Saturday, Feb. 29, 2020. Mexicos Health Department said late Friday that a new case had been confirmed in Mexico City, adding to the first two confirmed cases announced earlier that day. (AP Photo/Marco Ugarte) (Marco Ugarte, Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

The coronavirus outbreak is making people young and old anxious, but there are ways parents can ease their children’s fears.

Clinical psychologist Dr. Robin Goodman shared her advice with CBS New York.

“The first thing is you want to know your child. Also, think about their age. The littler the child, the less the words. The bigger the child, the more words,” Goodman told CBSN New York’s Natalie Duddridge. “The littler, they don’t process the information, they make fantasies and things. Where older kids will hear rumors. You want to be the source of information and reassurance.”

  • Give an appropriate amount of detail based on a child’s age
    • The younger your child is, the fewer words you should use because they can’t process all the information. The older your child is, you can use more words. Children hear rumors but you want to be their source of information and reassurance.
  • Normalize the conversation
    • Tell them you understand people at school or on the news are talking about the coronavirus. Ask them what they’ve heard or what they are afraid of. If you know what’s on their mind, you can answer their questions appropriately.
  • Is your child normally more fearful or do they get sick often?
    • Stress to your children that as parents you always take care of them. Reassure them they already do normal things to stay healthy, like washing your hands or wearing your seatbelt.
  • Validate their worries but correct misinformation.
    • Stress that your child should come to you with questions so they can get accurate information. Allow your child to express their feelings and teach them how to cope.
  • Stay calm and don’t spread fear to your child
    • As a parent be able to manage your own fear so you don’t transfer that onto your children. Try doing activities that can take your mind off the worrying.
  • If fear is interfering with your child’s life, have them speak to a professional.
    • If your child’s fear is too much or going on too long, if it’s interfering with their life, start by talking to them first and then try a professional.
  • Review your own family’s safety plans
    • Discuss what happens when they, a sibling or friend has to stay homesick.
  • Be hopeful by sharing stories about the good and helping others.