How to talk to your kids about pandemics in an age-appropriate, non-scary way. Great tips if you’re not sure where to start talking about the spread of disease with your kids!
With all the schools, restaurants, and theme parks closing due to the current pandemic, your kids are bound to notice something’s going on, even if they’re little. We’re all staying home, parents are working from home, and we can’t even go see a movie! It’s crazy!
And if your kids have noticed, they’re probably asking questions. You might be wondering how to talk to your kids about pandemics. “Pandemic” probably isn’t a word they’ve ever heard before, and if it is, I’m sure the connotations aren’t good!
Here are some suggestions to help you know what to say when you sit down to talk.
How to Talk to Your Kids About Pandemics
Don’t scare them
Obviously. Stay calm, don’t overreact, and let them know that you’re doing things to prevent them from getting sick.
Explain social distancing and how it prevents the spread of disease
Tell them that because viruses spread easily, everyone is taking precautions and being careful to stay away from each other right now. Because viruses can affect older people and people who are already sick the most, we want to help prevent its spread so they can avoid getting it.
Emphasize things they can do to help prevent the spread of germs
Now is not the time to be passive when it comes to hand-washing. Reiterate good hand-washing techniques, washing hands for at least 20 seconds, and washing hands whenever you use the bathroom, come home from anywhere, or before eating. You can also remind them to cover their coughs and sneezes with the inside of their elbows, or tissues.
Be developmentally appropriate
Again, this is kind of obvious, but don’t tell them anything they won’t understand or talk to them about statistics or rates of infection or anything. If your child is three, don’t tell them that pandemics cause people to die.
Don’t blame anyone
The spread of a pandemic isn’t any particular person’s fault. It can take up to two weeks for symptoms to appear, so it’s not fair to say that one person gave it to someone else or that it’s someone else’s fault that the virus spread.
There’s been a lot of misinformation going around, and it’s likely that your kids have heard some things that are less than true; let them ask questions and give them correct answers
If your child is older and has maybe discussed pandemics at school or seen things on the news, they might have questions, and they might have been told things that aren’t accurate. So let them openly discuss these things with you. You should be a safe space that they can trust to give you facts.
Explain why you’re staying home and brainstorm activities you can do at home together
If you’re self-quarantining or just staying home to avoid people, explain why you’re doing it. Tell them that staying home is the best way to slow the spread of the virus. And since they’re probably going to be bored staying at home (because kids can’t play with their own toys for more than 15 minutes [or is that just my kids?]), come up with reasonable activities you can do at home together! Busy Toddler has tons of great activities for younger kids that require few supplies, and Play Party Plan just shared 50+ boredom busters on her blog that are great for older kids. And I have a post with unique things to do with kids when you’re stuck at home.
If your kids ask questions that you don’t know how to answer, or you’re not sure how to explain pandemics in a kid-friendly way, the CDC has a great webpage with tips for discussions with children.
We’ve done all these things when we talked to our kids about pandemics, and as a result, our kids aren’t scared, anxious, or angry about the current one. It’s just something that’s happening in their lives right now that they have to deal with. Since we don’t know how long it’s going to last, we haven’t given them any timeframe on when we expect it to be over. For now, we’re just taking it one day at a time and hoping that everyone else takes this social distancing thing seriously, too! Hopefully in a few months this will just be a distant memory!
Good luck, mamas!