How can we talk with children about COVID-19 when don’t have all the answers? ChildSavers School-Based Supervisor, Bob Nickles, LCSW, RPT, walks us through 3 talking points to cover with our kids.
Share what you know about COVID-19 & what you’re going to take care of
Children need to understand that adults and their caregiving duties will remain consistent during big life events. Emphasize the care and support that you will continue to give as a parent, teacher, or child care provider.
Help them understand that things may change temporarily or permanently, but that you’re still going to be there for them.
Tell them how they can contribute in a positive way and why it’s important
Emphasize that you’re a team and let the child know what they’re responsible for during this time. “Kids really hold on to that because they need a sense of mastery. They need to know how to contribute to the family, group, or classroom,” says Bob Nickles, LCSW.
Maybe they can help sanitize their room or wash their hands every hour. Let them know why these tasks are important to keeping your family or classroom healthy.
What we know about COVID-19:
- The longer you’re around and the closer you are to someone with the coronavirus, the more likely you are to contract it.
- We wear masks, wash our hands well, stay 6 feet apart, and monitor our temperatures to prevent it from spreading. It spreads through touch and the air.
- Children are less likely to get COVID-19 and they are less likely to die from it. Older people seem to be getting it and passing away from it more often than young people.
- It takes about 10-14 days for someone to not be contagious anymore after testing positive.
- Symptoms include trouble breathing, coughing, sore throat, fever, chills, loss of taste or smell, being tired all the time, headaches and muscle aches, runny nose, and vomiting/diarrhea.
Other resources to help you talk to children about COVID-19:
- Mayo Clinic – How to talk to your kids about COVID-19
- BrainPop – A video for kids about the coronavirus
- Child Mind Institute – Tips for talking with kids about the Coronavirus
- Children’s Health – 6 tips for social distancing with kids
Be upfront about your uncertainty and feelings about the COVID-19
As caregivers, we must appropriately express our uncertainty about pandemics. “Let the child know about your feelings and how you’re dealing with it in a healthy way. Your children will say, ‘Oh, I have a role model for how to deal with that feeling. Let me cut and paste what they’re doing, and use it to manage my own feelings.'”
Here are a few guidelines for dealing with our feelings about the Coronavirus:
- Base your feelings in facts. Monitor updates from the CDC and World Health Organization. Look for kid-friendly videos from accredited health organizations that you can watch with your children.
- Practice breathing techniques with your children when anxiety flares.
- Remember that you’re mirroring behaviors and language for your children during the pandemic.
Bob Nickles is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) and actor. He was born in South Carolina and has been moving around ever since. Bob lives on the Northside of Richmond and hails most recently from St. Louis. ChildSavers welcomed Bob to the Mental Health team in 2015 and recently, he became the Program Manager for ChildSavers School-Based Services and Richmond Public Schools Resiliency Partnership. Bob will lead the delivery of clinical services within Richmond’s East End schools and supervise the mental health team.