How to talk about the coronavirus and the quarantine with your child.
The current situation raises many questions for parents: is it worth it to explain to children what’s happening, or is it better to lie and keep silent? How to talk, what to say, how to behave in general?
First and foremost, in no circumstances should you go into extremes like:
- Nothing’s going on, everything is fine and dandy, you’re just imagining that something’s wrong.
- Everything’s terrible, we’re all gonna die, so we’re barricading ourselves in the house and staying here, frightened.
Our opinion on this is as follows: if a child is at the age when he feels and understands that something beyond the ordinary is going on, you have to talk about it. This is even more important if the child is asking questions.
Your explanations must take into account the child’s age and level of comprehension. For example, if a child is small and his only concern is that he can’t go for a walk and ride a bicycle, you should concentrate on this aspect only, without trying to explain the situation in the world.
For the younger kids, a disease is a completely abstract concept and they see it only from the point of view of its consequences (I can’t play with my friend or have a birthday party with everyone from the kindergarten).
If your child’s a bit older, it’s important to explain why you should stay home now. Choose the words that he’d understand at this age and that’d give him clear information, but not frighten him. Explanations can vary – here’s one of them, suitable for elementary schoolers:
“A lot of people in different countries are sick now. Remember how you got sick last year, and didn’t go to school, and we didn’t go visit anyone so that they didn’t get sick, too? And now, so that the virus doesn’t spread, and people get sick less, you need to stay at home. We’re safe and we’ll find some fun ways to spend time. What would you like to do?”
If the child has questions, don’t wave him off under any circumstances. There’s a strong temptation to say something like “you’ll understand when you grow up”, or “Yes, everything’s fine! What makes you think that something’s wrong!” A child, even an older preschool one, can see perfectly well, and feels the tension hanging in the air, sees his anxious parents, his frightened grandma. If he doesn’t receive any explanations for what’s going on, he is forced to look for them himself, and believe me – those interpretations are much worse than reality. It is in such situations that children begin to sleep poorly and begin acquiring many fears.
The less information is coming from the parents, especially if the child can already hear and understand a lot, the more anxiety he’s experiencing.
It’s very important to explain to the child, calmly and without negative connotations, that the quarantine is an important thing that’s necessary in order not to get sick. This is the same as wearing warmer clothes when it’s cold outside. It’s: a) not scary; b) brief and c) will end soon. There are simply certain rules that must be followed for now.