Here are some general principles on how to discuss “scary topics” with your children.
- Setting: talk to your child when you are feeling calm yourself and can provide your undivided attention. It’s important that they feel heard and reassured.
- Get a sense of what their understanding is. You can ask questions like:
- Tell me what you know about …?
- What are you worried/scared about?
- What do you think is going to happen?
- What have you seen?
Once you have a good idea of their understanding (which will give you a framework) try to keep the information you provide minimal and confined within this framework.
3. Allow them to ask questions.
4. Answer questions and fill in the gaps without giving too much information, as this may increase fear. Remember to be honest and factual.
5. Help your children focus on the positives, what is being done and what they can do.
You can say something like:
“COVID-19 is a germ that can make you sick. It can cause cough, runny nose and fever. Not many people have it in Canada. So far, no children have become very sick from it (but some have had to stay in the hospital). Anyone can have COVID-19 no matter what they look like or where they come from. It can be passed from person to person, so it is important to wash your hands and not touch your face, to protect yourself. Masks do not protect us from getting the infection, but if someone has the infection, a mask can stop it from spreading. Doctors and nurses are working hard to limit the spread. If we get sick, we should stay home so we do not spread the infection.“
6. Make sure your child knows that they can come to you about any fears, questions or concerns they may have at any time.
Have you had experience with any explanations or tips that have worked for you?