How to explain Coronavirus to kids
How do you explain something to your children that’s out of your own control? We at Babysits believe that explaining important issues such as the Coronavirus and Covid-19 can be done in a child-friendly manner. If your kids are old enough to understand what's happening, they will probably have already heard about the virus at school or kindergarten. That’s why it’s crucial for parents to explain it to them in a way that makes them understand the urgency and the protective measures without scaring them unnecessarily. Here are our tips:
Ask them questions
Before talking to them about the Coronavirus or the implications of it, you should try to find out what, and how much, they’ve already heard and know. Particularly on social media and among their peers, the amount of false news and information can be quite high. Ask them questions about what they have already heard, what their teachers have explained to them in school or what kind of open questions they have. This might also be the time when you have to explain to them where the Coronavirus originated and what this means in regards to xenophobia and racism. Many people from East-Asia have experienced a lot of people staring or blaming them for the outbreak of the virus. It’s important to explain to your kids why that’s wrong and that solidarity is now more important than ever. Lastly, focus on letting them know that you are always open for their questions, no matter how many they have or how big or small they might be.
Explain what a virus is
In order for children to understand the urgency in regards to increased hygiene and social distancing measures, it’s crucial for them to understand what a virus is and how it spreads. When searching for an explanation online, articles and videos are long, complicated and often full of medical terms that are difficult to understand, especially for kids. Here’s an easier explanation:
A virus is a very, very tiny and invisible organism that likes to travel between humans via the air. Some of these small organisms called viruses are good and do not harm people, others are bad and make people sick. The Coronavirus is one of those viruses that can make people sick. One big problem of a virus is that it will travel from your body to someone else’s body without any of you noticing. That’s why we have to be very careful and do everything we can to protect ourselves and others.
Source: World Health Organisation (WHO)
Reassure them that they are safe
After explaining what a virus is and how it can harm people, it’s crucial to reassure them that they are safe in their environment. Explain to them that the Coronavirus is especially dangerous for elderly or chronically ill people. This will also help them to understand why visits at the grandparents’ house, playdates and other social interactions might have to be skipped and postponed to a later date.
Explain the measures
Many grown ups, let alone children, feel powerless and overwhelmed by the situation. In order to get some power back, you can follow the measures together with your family. From washing your hands, coughing and sneezing in your elbow to deciding on staying at home, there’s many things you can do. In this article, we have collected some child-friendly tips and information on how to avoid becoming sick in general. If you are staying in, also make sure to explain to your kids why it is important and how it can prevent the tiny organisms from traveling between human bodies.
A super easy experiment shared by teacher, Amanda Lorenzo, from Florida, shows kids how washing their hands with soap can rid the virus from their hands. All you need is a bowl filled with water, some pepper and soap:
You can explain to them how the small pieces of ground pepper are the organisms of the virus spreading on their hands if they don't wash them regularly. However, soap is their best friend and helper! Show them how the ground pepper moves away from their finger as soon as they put some soap on it. That's exactly how the virus disappears from their hands when they wash them correctly.
Show them alternatives
No matter how uncertain or scary the current situation is, it’s important to stay positive and use this opportunity to show your children the blessings of today’s digital and connected world. Whether it might be a video call with the grandparents, an online kids yoga class or a remote tutoring class, there are endless possibilities to use the internet to stay in touch with the world.
Keep a daily routine
Last but not least, we recommend you to keep a daily routine, especially when you are staying in and practice social distancing. Get up at a reasonable time, get dressed in the mornings and start your day as usual. If your kids have been going to school, they probably have some homework and learning material to finish. Provide them with a dedicated work space with all necessary materials such as pens, paper, learning materials and a quiet environment. Make sure they understand that it’s not going to be an extended school vacation but a time during which we have to adapt to new learning environments at home.
Overall it’s important to keep the balance between informing them about what they need to know while making sure they are not unnecessarily scared or worried. It’s an uncertain time for everyone but we believe it’s also an opportunity to learn new routines, stay positive and grow together as a family. If you need more inspiration on how to spend your social distancing time at home, check out our DIY and craft ideas as well as our child-friendly recipes on our Community Resources.