March 23, 2020

Helping children understand COVID-19

Kaiser Permanente pediatricians share helpful advice for keeping children safe and calm during the novel coronavirus pandemic.

Kaiser Permanente pediatrician David Bronstein, MD, shares advice for helping children cope during the COVID-19 outbreak.

Change is difficult for everyone, particularly children, and the unprecedented changes implemented to slow and stop the spread of the novel coronavirus are particularly challenging.

In this time of school closures and other disruptions to our routines, it’s important for parents and caregivers to talk with children in a supportive way about COVID-19 and what to do to keep themselves and others healthy — both mentally and physically.

Kaiser Permanente pediatric infectious disease specialists Daisy Dodd, MD, and David Bronstein, MD, share important advice to keep in mind to support children during this time.

  • Reassure them – Let them know that generally COVID-19 symptoms are milder in children, and most of the known cases are in adults. Help them understand that safety measures such as social distancing are temporary, but necessary to make sure everyone stays safe.
  • Ask for their help – Explain that they can keep themselves safe by washing their hands frequently and protecting their coughs and sneezes. Tell them that when they stay safe, they help keep their family, friends, and neighbors safe.
  • Check in daily – Talk with children regularly. Ask what they’re hearing and what questions they have. This is your opportunity to correct any misinformation they have and offer reassurance.
  • Provide structure – A daily routine can return some normalcy for children, helping them cope with uncertainty and change. Provide a schedule that includes wake-up time, schoolwork, meals, and fun activities throughout the day.
  • Limit media exposure – Set a specific time each day to watch or read news, being mindful to limit discussion of news reports around children.
  • Model healthy habits by caring for yourself – You’re best able to help your children manage the stresses of this time by keeping yourself healthy and calm. Exercise regularly and remain in regular contact with friends and family to build resilience.

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