How to talk to your kids about Covid-19

As much as adults keep referring to this as an “unprecedented time,” my kids just know it as the weirdest Spring Break they’ve ever experienced. From their perspective, this new reality isn’t marked by worldwide statistics or plummeting stock prices—it’s about the vacation that didn’t happen and the friends and family they aren’t seeing. My daughter also notices how often the news is on our TV now.

A couple of nights ago, we decided to turn the news off and have a family movie night instead. We watched Frozen II in which Olaf (everyone’s favourite talking snowman) sings a song called “When I’m Older.” Here is an excerpt of the the lyrics:

So there's no need to be terrified or tense I'll just dream about a time When I'm in my aged prime 'Cause when you're older Absolutely everything makes sense

Although this song is totally tongue-in-cheek, it is likely how the kids in our orbit are thinking about the current state of the world. They know something has changed even though they don’t understand how much has changed and for how long. Kids are trusting that the grown-ups have it all figured out. The problem is that even the grown-ups can’t make sense of a world that is changing as fast as ours has over the past two weeks.

In our household, we like to keep the lines of communication open, so we’ve instituted a daily Covid Check-in at dinner time. This is when we let our kids know what the latest news is: what are the current restrictions and coronavirus reports. Our children are from 8 to 14 years old, so we have age-appropriate conversations about how many people have died from Covid-19 in our country as well as around the world. We do this so they have a concept of the gravity of the situation and understand that lives are being affected everywhere. This isn’t just an “us” problem that has inconvenienced their Spring Break. We also tell them the latest restrictions, so they understand why we’re staying home and how it is serving a greater purpose.

So here is what I suggest when talking with your kids about Covid-19:

  • Confirm the reality: you can talk to a 4-year-old about a big sickness in the world, but with a 14-year-old you can talk about the specifics of the pandemic.

  • Connect your actions: show how your actions as a family are a direct result of the current global reality we are living in.

  • Convey assurance: whether it’s a snuggle or a time of prayer—your kids need to know that you and their Heavenly Father are always available for them.

We shouldn’t give our kids false hope (promising that everyone they know will be okay), but we can remind them (and ourselves) that God is in control no matter what. If Olaf had looked to God instead of grown-ups, his song might sound something like this:

So there's no need to be terrified or tense

Because God sees all of time

And this family of mine

He holds us in his hands

With love, peace, and power so immense

May you know the love, peace, and power of the Lord today and every day. I pray our Creator, who knows all, guides you as you navigate these remaining days of your kids’ weirdest Spring Break ever.

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