Talking to kids and teens about COVID-19

Parents and other trusted adults can help kids and teens understand COVID-19 while managing their fears and concerns. They may worry about themselves, their family, and their friends getting sick. They may also feel upset about how life has changed during the pandemic.

Tips for talking to kids:

  • Make time to listen and talk to kids about COVID-19. Let them know they can come to you when they have questions.
  • Kids often hear things you discuss with others, even if you don’t realize it. They may misinterpret what they hear, and can be scared about things they do not understand. Talk to kids about what they see or hear on TV, radio, or online. Explain how some stories on the internet and social media may be incorrect.
  • Pay attention to how you’re feeling when you talk with kids. Remember that kids will notice both what you say and how you say it. Let kids know it is okay to feel upset.
  • Provide reliable information that is appropriate for their age and developmental level. Avoid language that might judge or blame others and lead to stigma.
  • Teach kids how they can reduce the spread of germs. Remind kids to wash their hands frequently, and stay away from people who are sick. Also, remind them to cough or sneeze into their elbow.
  • Talk to kids about how schools are protecting people from COVID-19.
  • Share healthy ways to deal with stress like talking to others, meditating, or going for a walk. You can model these behaviors for kids.
  • If you make a SAFER COVID-19 plan for your kid, talk with them about it. If they are old enough, help them make their own plan.

Even more tips for talking to teens:

  • Let teens know that you are open to talk with them any time, but understand if they’re not ready.
  • Show them that you care about their feelings. Avoid comments like, “That’s not a big deal,” and “That shouldn’t matter.” Instead try, “That sounds hard,” or “That is upsetting.”
  • Admit that the COVID-19 pandemic is difficult. It’s normal for them to feel upset about missing out on events and activities. This includes everything from not seeing their friends as often, to missing a sports season, to a graduation ceremony that is not in person.
  • Provide facts in the face of uncertainty. Help teens learn how to find reliable information online.
  • Give teens some control over their lives. For example, make a rule that they have to wear a mask, but let them choose the mask.
    Teens value their privacy and alone time. If people are spending more time together because of COVID-19, help them find ways to get their quiet time.
  • Encourage teens to use SAFER COVID-19 to make plans for in-person activities, and go over the plans together.