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Talking to children about COVID-19

A pediatric psychologist gives tips for parents on how to address a child’s worries and questions surrounding COVID-19.
Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich — Many children are home from school in light of the COVID-19 outbreak, and the change may cause some to have uncertainty.

According to Kate Eshleman, PsyD, of Cleveland Clinic Children’s, it’s important for parents to listen to their child’s concerns.

“It’s always important to start with the kids and find out where they’re at,” she said. “Ask them what they’ve heard, what they know, and what they think and feel about these things. It’s always important to tell the truth in a developmentally appropriate way, and to provide kids with reassurance.”

Dr. Eshleman said it’s also a good idea to be mindful of the information that is coming into your home.

With so much news available at our fingertips, it can be easy for both kids and adults to become overwhelmed and anxious.

“If adults want to watch the news, make sure you’re not doing it always in the presence of the children,” said Dr. Eshleman. “It’s okay to have a little bit of the exposure, but if you’re going to do that, do it together, so that you can ask questions and address any concerns.”

She said it’s also good for parents to recognize that kids will take their cues from adults. By keeping yourself calm, it will help keep your children calm as well.

“If a parent is anxious, the child is going to pick up on that,” said Dr. Eshleman. “We should try to model our own self-care, when interacting with our kids as well.”

Dr. Eshleman said it’s also okay to tell your kids that you don’t know all the answers to their questions.

This is a new situation for all of us, and it’s okay to share that with them.

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