How to Talk About Coronavirus with Your Anxious Child

With the spread of the coronavirus to the US, people all over the nation are getting worried about staying healthy and that includes your kids. As a psychologist who specializes in working with anxious kids, there are a number of things I recommend to parents who want to help their kids who are worried about coronavirus. Here are five steps you can take to help your kids stay calm in these anxious times:

  1. Get the facts first.
    Before discussing it with your child, make sure you know the truth about coronavirus. Don’t rely on sensationalistic news sources. Go to the CDC’s website (https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html) to learn the facts.

  2. Listen to your child’s fears.
    Find out what your child knows and what they’re worried about before doing the talking. Sometimes children’s fears are much different than we imagine so make sure you know what those fears are so you can address them appropriately.

  3. Remember to stay calm or find someone else to talk to your child.
    Children get more worried when they can tell you’re worried. If the coronavirus has you really freaked out and you’ll have a tough time staying calm while talking to your child, find a partner or another trusted adult who can talk to your child calmly about their fears.

  4. Be honest, but positive.
    Make sure to give your child accurate information about the coronavirus, but emphasize the positive. For instance, if your child asks if people can die from it, you might say, “Some people have died, but most people just get a little sick and then get better.”

  5. Tell your child what they can do.
    Children feel better when they feel in control. Use this opportunity to have a discussion with your child about healthy habits such as getting to bed on time, eating healthy foods, and washing hands that may reduce their chance of getting sick.

Julianna Sapienza, Ph.D.

Author: Julianna Sapienza, Ph.D.

Dr. Sapienza is a child clinical psychologist specializing in the treatment of anxiety in kids and adolescents
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