If you’re anything like us, the day schools closed, you probably hadn’t put much thought to talking to your kids about the coronavirus.
Don’t get me wrong; our kids knew about it. They overheard news blips while passing through the living room. Talk at school. Parental conversations. But we didn’t have the foresight to sit them down to talk about what they had and would be hearing.
At least not until the grocery store that afternoon.
I stood in the long line, our 7-year-old pressed to my side. Concern hovered over surrounding adults in words he didn’t know (COVID what?). Their fear reflected in his blue eyes.
As everyone scrambled for the last rolls of toilet paper (not gonna lie—I would have taken someone down for the last bag of my favorite coffee), I kicked myself for not better preparing not just my house, but our kids.
But now we’re a few days in. There’s no shortage of conversations surrounding COVID-19: sanity while “social distancing,” homeschooling with both parents also working full time (it ain’t pretty), and the projected duration of this global crisis.
We’ve realized our kids don’t need one sit-down talk. We need an ongoing conversation.
Talking to your kids about the coronavirus
This is one of those tricky parenting times, right? I’m a natural overprotector of my kids. So anything outside of my control is especially tough. But I can already feel God using this situation to remind me I never really had control anyway.
My husband, on the other hand, is a natural-born leader, protector, and firm believer in being prepared. In times like this, I’m especially thankful for the way God made Josh. I know the safety of his family is his utmost concern.
But our kids need both of us right now—the sensitive overprotector and the prepared leader. It’s important we come together to decide how we’ll approach this topic with our kids. What we’ll share, what we won’t, and even how we word some information. (Hint: God has made you and your spouse as a perfect match for this time, too.)
Because it doesn’t help the kids to hear one thing from Mom (COVID-19 is another word for a cold, honey. Want a cookie?), while Dad’s message is completely different (Have you heard these theories about a zombie apocalypse?).
So if you’re married, connect with your spouse first. After, here are a few other things to consider as you approach talking to your kids about the coronavirus.
Keep conversations age-appropriate.
Our kids are six years apart. The level of information they can handle isn’t the same. With younger kids, less is more. But even with older kids, let them process what they do know before piling on the next round. With any age group, consider a slow drip of information that sets the tone you know to be true in Scripture: trust, generosity, protection of the vulnerable. Our kids are taking their cues from us.
A good place to start is by asking what they’ve heard already. Son shared mostly panicked thoughts from other first graders. Needless to say, most of our conversations with him have been clearing up misinformation. Honestly, if we don’t talk about it, he doesn’t bring it up.
But our 13-year-old possessed a greater understanding of what was going on from conversations at school and with friends. Because of her maturity and the need to prepare her for adulthood, we share more of what we know with her– still been a lot of rumor elimination.
Obviously, this won’t be the same for every family. You know your kids best. Considering their age and maturity level, what do you feel comfortable sharing?
Consider limiting media access
While worrisome to adults, the recent addition of restrictions can be far scarier to our kids. Schools and churches are closed. Their favorite activities have been canceled. The news has reported a shortage of toilet paper, bottled water, canned vegetables. (Although my daughter remarked, “As long as Mom still has coffee, we should be OK.”)
Despite the jokes (my crew’s favorite coping strategy), this can add up to big fears for kids. If you want to be the one talking to your kids about the coronavirus, limit their exposure from outside media.
Be open to questions
One of the only tools kids have for making sense of this world is through questions. Let them ask. If you don’t know all the answers, that’s OK. But be willing to admit that.
We’re living in a world of “what ifs” right now. For a culture used to having most information and solutions readily available at our fingertips, we don’t take not knowing or not having very well.
Show your kids what it means to be patient. Answer what you can but expect to not have all the answers for now.
Remind them where your trust remains
Funny thing. The word corona is Latin for “crown.” This nasty virus was named for the protruding spikes you can see under a microscope.
We put our faith in a Crown, but it isn’t science.
It would be easy to get swept up in the fear of everything out of our control right now. My daughter and I snuggled up last night before bed and talked about how we both felt that way.
But the truth is, it is only out of our control.
Right now, I’m memorizing 1 Peter 5:6-7: “Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.”
Our kids need to see us humble ourselves, clinging to God and trusting Him fully when things feel out of control. Because when we believe He cares for us, they believe it, too.
So, while we wait on the latest rounds of restrictions, drinking our tap water from cups (gasp!), my husband and I are reminding ourselves, and our kids—God’s got this. He’s already seen the outcome, and we know, overwhelmingly, that He is using this time for our good (see Romans 8:28).
If you plan on talking to your kids about the coronavirus this week, start with God’s unending supply of goodness.
Copyright © 2020 by FamilyLife. All rights reserved.
Lisa Lakey is a writer and editor for FamilyLife. Before joining the ministry in 2017, she was a freelance writer covering parenting and Southern culture. She and her husband, Josh, have been married since 2004. Lisa and Josh live in Benton, Arkansas, with their two children, Ella and Max.