Talking to Children about the Global Pandemic

April 11, 2020 - 5 minutes read

This blog post was written by BICS Counsellor, Ms. Deidre Keating.

A question I’ve heard many people ask recently is, ”How much should I talk to my child about what is happening in the world?”

Let’s be realistic…our kids’ world is so much bigger than ours ever was, and they are connected to each other in ways that we could never imagine when we were their age. So, they may absorb information from a variety of realms – some of them credible, others not — and will likely try very hard to make sense of it all. They may be presented with information that isn’t accurate, and they may have a ton of questions for you. Here are some guidelines if you are curious about how to talk about Covid-19 in child-friendly ways.

  1. We want to make sure first and foremost that we acknowledge what our kids are feeling rather than focusing solely on the why. They may be experiencing some big and unsettling feelings at this time, and we need to provide a safe container for these emotions, no matter what they are. What are they feeling? How do they know they are feeling this way? Are they feeling any other ways, too?
  2. Acknowledge what is happening in the world without going fully into it. You may choose to have a brief conversation with your child about why we are staying at home for a while, with the lens that we are doing this to be safe and to help others be safe, too. Reframe this time as a time of looking out for each other and making sure that we, as a family, school, and community, do what we can to help each other. Focus on the good and the helpful. You may choose to have conversations about the great things you are seeing in the world – who is being helpful on Bowen? How can we be more helpful? Why is it important to be helpful? Reframe the narrative so it becomes one that is more comforting and safer for our kids to understand. Also, providing a local context – on Bowen – helps our children feel more grounded and develops a sense of belonging.
  3. Remember that children do not need to know every detail of what is currently going on. It is a very wise and kind decision to limit your child’s exposure to the news right now, to buffer their hearts and minds from processing too much. There is so much misinformation floating around that our kids will naturally feel confused and anxious the more they hear. If your child has questions – which they most likely will – it is important to hear them, and to answer their questions truthfully, without going too fully into the facts. Of course, your approach to the news may vary with age, as you may have inquisitive teenagers who seem to know a lot about the current state of affairs, and who seek to learn more. We can’t stop the overflow of information accessible to them, but we can help them become more savvy when consuming it, by directing them to credible news sources, and helping them think critically about what they read.

In all, now is the time to be honest with your children, but also very attentive to their developmental stages, and only share information that is appropriate for their age. For younger children, keep the focus on health, safety, helpfulness, and how they are feeling. For older students, engage in conversations about current events, but also use this time to teach about the critical consumption of information.

Thank you for reading!

Deidre Keating

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