How to Talk to Your Children about COVID-19

Scratching your head about how to start a conversation on COVID-19 with your kids? We’ve got you covered with tailored tips for parents

Parents are fighting two battles: the first to protect themselves and their children from COVID-19 and its far-reaching ramifications, and the second to protect their children from the anxiety that has infiltrated our collective consciousness.

How do parents broach the subject of COVID-19, the Movement Control Order (MCO) and the world’s new socially distant reality to their wide-eyed brood? Once again, Malaysian parents are left stammering, groping for the right words to explain why bad things happen

We understand this struggle, which is why we’ve created this interactive comic for parents to print out and complete together with their child.

What’s more, we’ve curated some great tips for parents to establish the correct emotional tone for a reassuring and educational conversation about COVID-19 with their children.

Resolve your own fears first

We are constantly bombarded with news about the virus from all devices, at all hours. By now your child may have heard of it, seen people wearing face masks, wonder why schools are closed, why that sleepover was cancelled or why nenek can’t visit. Your children have certainly noticed your reaction to hearing or reading about COVID-19 on TV or in the news.

Children can sense their parents’ worry and panic. Parents are their children’s guiding light on how to feel about, and react to, a situation — especially in times of crisis. It is imperative that you convey a sense of calm and confidence that will facilitate a positive conversation about the pandemic with your child.

Image via: ParentingHub

Empower your child

Assess how much your kids already know about the virus. If your children have never heard of COVID-19 or don’t seem interested, you might not want to talk about it at all to save them the unnecessary worry. Pay close attention to their reactions and let them lead the discussion.

Provide a safe space for children to air out all feelings about current circumstances, without judgement.

Empower your children and give them a sense of control over the situation by teaching them how staying home and washing their hands protects everybody. Model the behaviour that you want to teach. Your children are not going to follow correct MCO protocol if you don’t set an example. Focus on what you’re doing to stay healthy, collectively.

Image via: joey333/iStock

Talk age-appropriately

Don’t offer additional information nor details unnecessarily. Your goal is to communicate to your children that you support and protect them no matter what; educating them about the pandemic is secondary to this. If your children ask a question that you don’t know the answer to, emphasise teamwork and solidarity.

You can say something like, “Let’s go on and find out together.” Or “There are lots of really smart scientists and doctors working together to make things better. Let’s help them by staying home and washing our hands.” Avoid language that blames race, countries or animals for propagating COVID-19.

Image via: Photo smile

Use technology wisely

It’s all too easy to rely on the internet when you’re juggling full-time remote work and looking after your kids. It’s true that the wonders of the digital age bring bountiful offerings to children during the MCO: remote learning, virtual playdates and regular video calls with relatives. 

On the flip side, homebound children are constantly exposed to so much information that it can lead to sensory overload. Parents must control what their children see or hear. Fake news is especially detrimental to young minds, who cannot discern hyperbole from fact. Teens and tweens, with their insatiable appetite for content, are particularly vulnerable because they are always plugged in to social media and each other.

Parents must place themselves in a position of authority and trust. Children must feel that they can turn to you at any time, any place, for safety and truth. At times of uncertainty, parents must be their primary touchstone of comfort and information, not their friends and certainly not social media.

Under normal circumstances, navigating the choppy waters of parenting is already a struggle. This won’t be the last crisis, but it’s a chance for you to demonstrate how to manage uncertainty and communicate to your children that you are always there for them. 


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