I have a 3-year-old and a 15 month old and they have no idea about the current pandemic, nor should they – that is for adults to worry about.
At the same time, this is a perfect opportunity to teach them about the importance of proper hand washing and good habits like no outdoor shoes in the house.
There are times that adult anxieties and worries are for children and times they are not. Explaining these worries, like the current pandemic, varies over the course of childhood.
- Toddlers – at this stage children are still egocentric. Provided they are occupied then it is unlikely they will be aware of being house-bound.
- Young Children – older toddlers and preschoolers often express their desire to do something, for example play with someone or go somewhere. At this age children might be distracted or for those children who ask why, you may respond with a simple statement, such as “we’re not allowed” or “we have to stay home at the moment to help us not get ill.”
- Children in middle childhood will be more aware of their surroundings and events in the wider world. Whilst you cannot reassure them of what will definitely happen, you can do your best to answer their questions and reassure them you are doing your best to keep them safe.
- Teenagers are likely to already be aware of the pandemic and may ask questions about it. Answer their questions and encourage them to research facts from safe sources. Be there for them and to reassure them as best you can, be prepared for questions that you don’t know the answer to – it’s a very uncertain time for all of us.
Which approach is right for you?
During middle childhood (approximately 8-12 years) children will become more aware of events outside their immediate family. They may start asking questions about wider events for example.
This indicates that a child is ready to learn more (but not necessarily all) about what is happening in the wider world.
How much is right?
This is different for all children and circumstances. The current pandemic is incredibly scary for us as adults and ultimately we can only reassure our children that we are doing the best to keep them and their family safe.
Read next: Explaining Isolation to Children