Talking to Children About Covid-19

Talking to Children About Covid-19

By Heather W. Cintron, Psy.D.

Barnes & Klatt P.C.

In the past few months, so many of my patients have asked me, “How do I explain COVID-19 to my children?” My answer is always the same, “It depends.” It depends upon a child’s developmental level and ability to think abstractly. It depends on their level of anxiety and/or depression and how the information will impact their emotional, physical, and mental states. It depends on the type of questions you, as a parent, are ready to navigate. So again, it depends.

Though how you explain COVID-19 and its impact on your child, your family, and the world depends, what does not depend is the need for you to start the conversation and be supportive. Find out what your child already knows and gently make any corrections. With so many of our children utilizing social media, they are sure to know a lot, both accurate and inaccurate, and their exposure should be limited. Once you start the conversation, encourage your child to ask as many questions as needed to feel safe and answer those questions directly, simply, and honestly. How do you respond when your child asks, “Why do I have to wear a mask?” How do you respond when your child asks, “Will we die if we don’t wear our masks?” How do you respond when your child says, “That person isn’t wearing a mask, are they going to die.” How do you respond when your child asks, “Why can’t I go see my friend or grandma?”

What I can tell you is, please don’t equate COVID-19 with the flu or a “really bad cold.” Most kids have had colds and “really bad” is subjective. A “really bad cold” to a 10-year-old may not be a “really bad cold” to a 5-year-old. Our children are watching us. How we react is often how they react. What I can tell you is to make the most of this time with your children normalizing this experience the best you can. Have family dinners, have movie nights, make blanket forts, go outside, take walks, keep to a schedule as much as possible, tell them you love them.

How do we answer all these questions? As parents, you are the best people to make your children feel safe in a world where many adults don’t feel safe. How do we, as adults, come to believe what we are telling our children and reassure them and ourselves?

It depends.

As parents and adults, we must educate ourselves. For the most accurate information regarding COVID-19, please visit

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