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How to talk to kids about COVID-19? It’s been two years since the pan­dem­ic hit the world like a prover­bial ton of bricks. Busi­ness­es shut, bor­ders closed, gov­ern­ments tried to reas­sure a wor­ried pub­lic, and pub­lic health experts scram­bled to explain this new dead­ly disease. Sud­den­ly, chil­dren were pulled from class­rooms across the globe, and many par­ents strug­gled to help them adapt to online learn­ing. Social dis­tanc­ing was the new buzz phrase on everyone’s lips, and overnight masks were manda­to­ry for any­one head­ing into pub­lic spaces. Dog walk­ing was per­mit­ted, but any excur­sion that wasn’t essen­tial was dis­cour­aged or, in some places, tem­porar­i­ly outlawed. It’s been a chal­leng­ing time – vir­tu­al­ly every fam­i­ly; it’s safe to say, direct­ly knows some­one who fell ill with COVID-19 or knows of some­one in their com­mu­ni­ty who did. It’s gen­uine­ly been a once-in-a-cen­tu­ry disaster. But things are get­ting bet­ter, thank­ful­ly. Vac­cines and treat­ments are now wide­ly avail­able. Chil­dren are eli­gi­ble for inoc­u­la­tion if they’re over five years old.  But men­tal health experts agree that chil­dren aren’t out of the woods psy­cho­log­i­cal­ly. While their phys­i­cal well-being is pro­tect­ed by vac­ci­na­tion, their hearts and souls are still grap­pling with the changes wrought by the pan­dem­ic – changes to social norms, changes to friend­ships, and changes to their fam­i­ly, poten­tial­ly, if some­one they love fell ill with the virus. Plen­ty of chil­dren still have ques­tions. Many don’t under­stand the seri­ous­ness of the virus sim­ply because they are too young. Oth­ers won­der whether they’ll ever feel “nor­mal” again, at a school dance or a sports practice. This arti­cle offers sug­ges­tions for talk­ing to kids about the ongo­ing pan­dem­ic. After all, the World Health Orga­ni­za­tion (WHO) has not declared it over or changed it to endem­ic sta­tus. We are all tired of COVID-19, but the virus isn’t fin­ished with us quite yet. Here are some sug­ges­tions on talk­ing to your chil­dren about the ongo­ing pandemic.

- Monitor Your Own Anxiety Levels

Chil­dren are sponges, and if they see their par­ents react­ing ner­vous­ly to the news, for exam­ple, it height­ens their own anx­i­ety. They may not be able to artic­u­late this – it’s a kind of free-float­ing anx­i­ety that sets in. But if mom and dad are con­stant­ly talk­ing about the dan­gers of the virus, you can bet your child will take that in and start wor­ry­ing too. Be aware of your child’s reac­tions to your own mood and con­cerns, and cut down screen time if nec­es­sary so you – and your chil­dren – can get the pan­dem­ic out of your heads for a while.

- Ask Them If There Is Anything They Want To Know

No doubt they’ve learned plen­ty at school, from friends and fam­i­ly mem­bers about the pan­dem­ic. Find out whether the infor­ma­tion they’ve heard is cor­rect, and if not, set the record straight. Make sure your expla­na­tions are age-appro­pri­ate and that you don’t fright­en them, of course. But they need to know how seri­ous COVID-19 can be despite vac­cines and treatments.

- Remember That Young Children Worry A lot About Everything

how to talk to kids about COVID-19 Con­cerns about the virus have land­ed on top of all the usu­al anx­i­eties chil­dren face – about how they are doing in school, for exam­ple, and about their social lives. Par­ents must rec­og­nize that an “invis­i­ble ill­ness” can be ter­ri­fy­ing, so don’t min­i­mize or dis­miss their fears, hop­ing that will change their feel­ings. For exam­ple – ask if they are afraid of you con­tract­ing the virus or one of their grandparents. This gives them the chance to tell you every­thing they are afraid of and gives you the chance to allay those fears with­out mak­ing them feel their fears are irra­tional. It also gives you the oppor­tu­ni­ty to explain why cer­tain pub­lic health mea­sures, like good hand hygiene, are still so important.

- Be Patient As They Adapt To New or Changing Measures

If you have a teenag­er at home, they may well express frus­tra­tion that life is not yet com­plete­ly back to nor­mal. Gov­ern­ments are slow­ly eas­ing restric­tions, but if an out­break occurs at their school, they may sud­den­ly have to switch to remote learn­ing again. These snap changes, made for everyone’s ben­e­fit, can be tough for chil­dren of any age to cope with. Teenagers, how­ev­er, are inun­dat­ed with hor­mones and mood swings at the best of times, and two years of glob­al pan­dem­ic restric­tions have made all those hor­mon­al peaks and val­leys that much worse. So if they get a lit­tle annoyed with all the back-and-forth pub­lic health mea­sures, try to be patient. Their social life has been inex­orably altered, and many of the activ­i­ties they once count­ed on may have stalled or dried up com­plete­ly. Be as patient as pos­si­ble with them, and make an effort to compromise. For exam­ple, you may not want them to have all their friends to the house just yet, but if some friends are ful­ly vac­ci­nat­ed and you live in a low-risk area, give your teen some lee­way. Let them have a few friends over on a Sat­ur­day night to watch a movie or lis­ten to music. These kinds of occa­sion­al events go a long way toward restor­ing a teen’s sense of nor­mal­cy. That goes for allow­ing them out, as well. If they want to go to a sports event or a con­cert, agree if they promise to keep their mask on. They may com­plain and groan (“mom, you are so strict!”), but their desire to get out and see friends and attend a much-missed event will over­ride their resis­tance to your so-called strictness.

- Explain That The Pandemic Isn’t Over Even Though Rules Are Changing

how to talk to kids about COVID-19 Chil­dren may assume that, since they’re back in school and even mask man­dates are end­ing in some places, they no longer need to wor­ry about the virus. Cor­rect that impres­sion immediately. Explain that keep­ing up prac­tices like good hand hygiene, social dis­tanc­ing (where pos­si­ble and nec­es­sary) as well as iso­lat­ing if they get sick – even with just a cold – are all still huge­ly important. At the time of this writ­ing, chil­dren under five are not eli­gi­ble for vac­ci­na­tion. There­fore it’s cru­cial that fam­i­lies do all they can to keep these lit­tle ones from expo­sure to COVID-19. Not just for their own sake, but so they don’t become asymp­to­matic car­ri­ers and infect vul­ner­a­ble indi­vid­u­als, like their grand­par­ents or friends whose immune sys­tems are compromised.

- What If The Unthinkable Happens?

How do you explain to a child that a grand­par­ent con­tract­ed the virus and passed away? Child psy­chol­o­gists are now divid­ed on this – telling them the virus is respon­si­ble for a loved one’s death has to be han­dled very carefully. Some experts say telling a child that the per­son died but not blam­ing covid is a rea­son­able approach. Oth­ers say that because it is like­ly to be with us per­ma­nent­ly, the more open we are with chil­dren about its impact, the better. In the end, it depends on how old your child is; how like­ly it is they may hear the truth from anoth­er source (like a sib­ling) and whether you, as their par­ent, feel they can process the news. how to nurture your child's talent l how I nurture my child's talent l how I find my child's talent l how to develop a child's talent

Final Thoughts

The pan­dem­ic has been enor­mous­ly chal­leng­ing for every­one on many fronts, but per­haps no one has expe­ri­enced its dev­as­tat­ing effects more than chil­dren. Adults can read cred­i­ble sources like news­pa­pers, med­ical jour­nals and online sci­en­tif­ic web­sites, like the Cen­ters for Dis­ease Con­trol (CDC) in the Unit­ed States.  Adults can keep pace with chang­ing guide­lines and under­stand why the sit­u­a­tion is con­tin­u­al­ly evolv­ing. Chil­dren thrive on sta­bil­i­ty, and the last two years have been any­thing but. Nonethe­less, with par­ents guid­ing them and reas­sur­ing them that they (and the fam­i­ly) will get through this, chil­dren adapt. Know­ing that we are all in this togeth­er, and that togeth­er is how we will come out of it, makes chil­dren feel less alone and iso­lat­ed. Spend extra time with them, talk­ing when need­ed, and focus­ing on oth­er top­ics. Under­take activ­i­ties as a fam­i­ly, like hik­ing in the fresh air and video chat­ting with fam­i­ly mem­bers in oth­er cities and countries. Most impor­tant­ly, reas­sure them that you are not like­ly to con­tract COVID-19 but that if you do, you’ll recov­er com­plete­ly. Down­play the worst effects of the virus because chil­dren do not need to hear about those, par­tic­u­lar­ly very young children.  Par­ents who talk open­ly about the pan­dem­ic when their child has ques­tions are help­ing them cope with our cur­rent real­i­ty. COVID-19 is like­ly here to stay, but it need not rule our lives. Soon the virus will be endem­ic, and hope­ful­ly, by this time in 2023, every­one will sim­ply need year­ly boost­ers to bump up our immu­ni­ty, as we get annu­al shots to pro­tect against the sea­son­al flu. Please focus on the pos­i­tives when talk­ing to your chil­dren while stress­ing that pro­tect­ing our­selves is as impor­tant as ever. Remind them when they’re wash­ing their hands that they’re doing it to pro­tect oth­ers, as well as themselves. how to talk to kids about COVID-19 Tell them they are cham­pi­ons because they are help­ing com­bat a seri­ous dis­ease and that con­trol­ling COVID-19 is one way to show their fam­i­ly how much they love them. Make the con­ver­sa­tions between you con­struc­tive, and chil­dren will wel­come the chance to con­tribute to fight­ing because it makes them feel in con­trol and hope­ful about the future. Mak­ing them feel good about their con­tri­bu­tion helps them feel good about them­selves as things improve and the pan­dem­ic final­ly begins to fade.

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