Talking with Your Children about the Coronavirus

With schools experiencing closures all around the world, we are all adjusting to heightened anxiety and disruption to our regular schedules. Your children will be affected by these changes and we wanted to share some helpful tips for how you can help them adjust. 

Here are a couple of things to keep in mind regardless of your child’s age:

  • Be aware and mindful about what children are hearing. Children absorb all that’s around them, and they lack the life experience and brain development to put things into context. Contact with the news and mature conversations can be overwhelming for them, especially when we are talking about something like a scary virus. Limit this exposure. 
  • Children pick up cues from adults in terms of how they will respond with a change of events. The obvious changes to most of their lives during this period will be spending a lot more time at home and washing their hands more frequently. These things aren’t inherently negative, and if we can insulate our children from our adult anxiety and model flexibility, we will be demonstrating something very powerful to them. Our children will need extra love and affection. 

Here are some recommendations we have based on the child’s age: 

Toddlers: Behave as normally as possible when with your toddler. When/if they ask about school, let them know that we are spending more time at home and that their friends and teachers are all working at home as well. If they ask why, simply say the school is on a break for a while. 

Primary: It is likely that many Primary-aged children have heard of coronavirus, most definitely if they have an older sibling.

For this age group, listen and observe what they are saying about it, and take note of anxiety or unsettled feelings. They may have some misinformation. If they do, let them know that yes, there is a new virus out there that’s not healthy, and that so many people all over the world — scientists, doctors, nurses, leaders, are working hard to make sure that people can be kept safe and strong and that there will be some medicine to help soon. That’s their job. Tell the children that we all have a job to do during this important time (Montessori children know all about jobs!): The job that they can do is to make sure they wash their hands long enough to sing the alphabet two times whenever they use the bathroom, prepare and eat food, cough, sneeze, touch their faces, or whenever an adult asks them to. Their other job is to stay home and help all the people in the house to play and work together when we are learning and working from home. In general, don’t talk a lot about it with them unless they ask. 

Elementary: Assess what your child knows, what their concerns are, and if they have some information that isn’t factual that you can help clear up. Tell them about the important jobs we can all do (read above in Primary) to help each other. Talk to them about the immune system and how most of us have very strong ones that can fight this virus, and our job is to make it easier for those who do not. You can tell them that the reason we have to limit our contact with others for a period of time is to help slow down and stop the spread of the virus. Montessori elementary students are used to hearing stories about other people who lived during different periods of history. This is a rare moment in our history where we are all being called to help one another by taking action to be less social for a while and to stay home. We are all a part of history in the making. It’s not what we expected, but we can do it! 

Here are more resources we recommend on this subject:

How to Talk to Kids and Teens About the Coronavirus: Resources from Psychology Today

Talking to Kids about the Coronavirus: By Betsy Brown Braun, Child Development Behavioral Specialist

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