How to talk to your kids about COVID-19: Practicing social distancing + protection against germs

by Amanda Simmons M.S., OTR/L

Children will hear, or have already heard, many rumors about the new pandemic, and our families work hard to assure their kids that they are safe amongst the wide-spread panic. Here is some language that you can use with your children, adapted by age and cognition, to help them better understand during this time.

Here is a link to PBS kids. At the bottom, there are video resources for your children to watch if they are still curious about the coronavirus.

What is coronavirus?

People that have coronavirus sometimes have a fever or a cough. It will often get better if we give our bodies and minds a break to help our bodies get better. Adults are working hard to keep the places you go germ free, but even if some sneak in, we are here to help your body get better just like if you had a really bad cold.

If your child is older and more curious, you can begin to explain that usually, kids have really good armor (immune systems) that help fight off germs. If you child is in their teen years, explaining how immunity works may also be a next step in comforting them.

How do I make sure I don’t get it?

Some things we can do as a family include washing our hands every time we transition (from outside, to a new space, before and after mealtimes), keeping our coughs and sneezes covered with our elbows, and making sure our bodies get lots of rest to keep our germ-fighter cells working!

If your child struggles to sneeze or cough into their elbow, consider creating a visual cue on their shirt or elbow (maybe a sticker of a tissue, or a picture of someone sneezing – if your child can generalize, colored tape may be enough of a cue).

Why can’t I see my friends?

Germs pass from one person to another person through the air or through touching them. We can keep everyone safe by seeing less people. I know this can be a lonely time, and you might miss your friends – there are games we can play as a family to help keep us happy. Also, we can FaceTime or Zoom-chat some of your friends so that you can still talk to them.  

Why can’t I go to therapy/why is my therapist ion a video screen?

Mommy and Daddy (or primary caregiver) have decided that it is important for us to stay home as a family. Ms. _______ has given us some ideas so that you can still have fun. I know you will miss the gym, but we will definitely go back as soon as we can!