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Talking to Kids About COVID-19

By April 3, 2020June 3rd, 2021Well-being Wellness
A little girl draws in a coloring book

The COVID-19 pandemic has been a life-changing experience for everyone. And while we are all learning as we go, children and young adults need extra help understanding and adapting to the changes happening around them.

Understandably, each child responds to change differently. Their age, personality, and life experiences affect this response. The one thing all children have in common, however, is the need for reassurance — reassurance that they are loved, that their feelings are important, and that they are safe and secure.

Parents, relatives, friends, teachers, and neighbors can help during this time. Whether in person or by phone, text, or email, adults can:

  • Be available to listen to questions, concerns, and fears
  • Be accepting and non-judgemental of their feelings
  • Watch for clues that a child may want to talk, like lingering around while an adult is doing the dishes

Also, consider the following age-related suggestions when talking to kids about COVID-19.

Preschoolers: Age 5 and Younger

At this age, children are like sponges. While they can’t understand everything going on around them, they pick up on adults’ anxiety and stress and may become more agitated and have more tantrums.

For these very young ones, actions speak louder than words. While they need less information, they thrive on additional routines. When possible, keep a consistent schedule for things like:

  • Waking and bedtimes
  • Meals
  • Storytime (a relative or friend can help with this by phone/video)

Grade Schoolers: Ages 6 – 13

To varying degrees, grade-schoolers can understand what’s going on around them. Not only will they hear what you say, but they will also notice how you say it.

  • Be calm and reassuring.
  • Let their questions be your guide as to how much information they need.
  • Keep your answers and examples simple and to the point. Read: Talking to Children About COVID-19 (Coronavirus)
  • Remind them that adults are working hard to keep them safe.

Young Adults: Ages 14 – 19

High schoolers and young adults may want to discuss the situation in more detail. By providing honest and accurate information, you will reassure them and help them feel a sense of control.

Additional Resources for Parents

Looking for some fun and educational ways to pass the time? Check out these resources for children of all ages.

  • Quench kids’ curiosity with endless activities, brain busters, science experiments, and quizzes from National Geographic Kids.
  • Explore renowned museums worldwide, including the Van Gogh Museum, J. Paul Getty Museum, and the National Gallery of Art with Virtual Museum Tours.
  • Take virtual field trips to famous locations, including the San Diego Zoo, Yellowstone National Park, the Great Wall of China, and the U.S. Space and Rocket Museum.
  • Sign up for the PBS Kids Daily Newsletter for tips and activities you can use to help kids play and learn at home.

Truth be told, we are all kids at heart, and we all need reassurance that we will get through this difficult time. If you need someone to talk to:

  • Independence Blue Cross members can call or video chat with a licensed mental health professional. To start, simply call the Mental Health number on the back of your ID card.
  • Anyone can call the National Disaster Distress Helpline at 800-985-5990 (TTY 800-846-8517).

 

Dr. Virginia “Ginny” Calega

About Dr. Virginia “Ginny” Calega

Dr. Virginia “Ginny” Calega is Vice President of Medical Affairs at Independence Blue Cross, where she is responsible for the ongoing analysis of utilization, medical cost, and health outcomes data, along with the development of interventions and programs to optimize these outcomes. Ginny is board-certified in internal medicine and geriatrics, is past Chair of the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association Medical Policy panel, and received the Pittsburgh Business Times 2016 Healthcare Hero Award for work on the innovative Highmark Cancer Collaborative. She completed her medical degree at the Medical College of Pennsylvania, her medical residency at Rhode Island Hospital, and her Master of Business Administration at Villanova University.