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How to talk with your kids about coronavirus

10TV talked with a child psychologist at Nationwide Children's Hospital about approaching the conversation.
File Photo (Credit: Syda Productions / Shutterstock.com)

With all the talk about coronavirus, it's likely your children will have questions.

10TV talked with Dr. Nicole Dempster, a child psychologist at Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus, to ask how to approach the conversation.

Here's the advice she gave:

  1. Prepare:
    • Think about your own reactions to coronavirus. Being able to know and manage our fears and stressors helps us truly provide more comfort to children.
    • Be developmentally appropriate. By that, I mean think of the main points you want your kid to know before you start the conversation. We don’t want to overwhelm them with all of the information we are taking in, so think of the top three things you feel comfortable with them knowing.
  2. The talk:
    • As adults, we often explain things over and over to kids. We might not realize something they have misunderstood. To help, start the conversation with “Are kids talking about coronavirus at school?” or “What have you heard about the coronavirus?” After you have finished your conversation you can ask, “So now that we have talked, tell me what you think about coronavirus.”
    • Focus on what you can do to increase their feeling of safety. Talking about how you can wash your hands well, sanitize handles of grocery carts or stay home when you are sick are ways to make them feel they can participate in staying safe, but also are keeping their normal daily life.
  3. After:
    • Limit how many conversations you have around the kids about coronavirus. Even though they are playing while we make dinner, they often hear what we as parents talk about. If they see us talking about it a lot, it is hard for them to believe us when we say “don’t worry.”
    • If they keep asking questions, try to not just respond with “Don’t worry” as this typically doesn’t make people feel better. Try to repeat the conversations you have had before. “It seems like you are still worried about the coronavirus, tell me what you have heard lately…”
    • Keep life as typical as possible to keep your child reassured.
    • If more people test positive for the virus in your area so larger steps are taken, such as schools closing down for longer periods and it is less safe to go in, make sure to keep checking with kids to hear what they think or have heard.