Committee for Children Blog

During the Pandemic, Answer the Hard Questions

My oldest child is 6 years old and he has been asking me hard questions from the moment he could talk. When he was just shy of 3 he asked me in a single conversation what happens when we die, how babies are made, and if giraffes can run. I’ve had to navigate many conversations with him where he has the ability to ask the question but is not developmentally ready to understand the answer. Here are some of his questions about the COVID-19 outbreak and my answers. I’ve weeded out questions he asked that I think most kids won’t, like: “What do white blood cells look like and do they have legs so they can actually help you ‘kick’ a virus?”

“What are coronavirus and COVID-19?”

Do you remember when you got the flu a little while ago? Or when mommy had a cold? Colds, flus, and other kinds of illnesses can be caused by viruses. We talked when you got sick about how viruses are tiny and can only be seen with a microscope. Sometimes when we talk about germs we mean viruses. They can get into the bodies of people or animals and make them feel sick. Coronavirus is a name for some kinds of viruses that make you feel like you have a very bad cold, and they can make it harder for your lungs to work. There’s a new coronavirus some people are getting and, when they feel sick from the virus, doctors call that sickness COVID-19.

“Will I get it?”

There are lots of ways we can keep ourselves healthy and make sure we’re trying our best to not catch viruses. We can wash our hands a lot throughout the day, especially before and after we eat and after we go to the bathroom. We can try not to touch our faces, too, because germs like to go in your mouth, nose, or eyes. We’re going to stay home more and take some time to just be with the family members who live in our house. That way people who are sick have the chance to get better before we see them again and we can be sure we aren’t getting anyone else sick by accident. We’ll be sure we’re eating healthy food, going outside, and getting enough exercise. If you’re worried, that’s okay.

I want you to know that you’re safe. If any of us get sick we’ll be sure everyone is well taken care of, just like we do when we get a cold or the flu. If you’re ever feeling worried or scared about getting sick, let’s talk about it. We all get scared sometimes. If we talk about it, we can work together to find some ways to help you feel safer and manage your worry. Sometimes just telling someone what I’m worried about makes me feel less worried.

“Why is school canceled and when do I get to go back?”

When people are all together in big groups it’s easier for viruses to move from one person’s body to another’s. Sometimes people accidentally forget to cough into their elbow or touch things with germs on their hands. We’re all going to stay home from school for a while so we’re less likely catch the virus or give it other people. Right now, we’re planning to be out of school until the fall. If that changes, I’ll tell you and we can talk about it.

“Why can’t we visit our grandparents?”

Remember, we’re trying to just be with the family who live in our home right now so everyone can stay healthy. Let’s talk to them on the phone later. You could even write them a letter and mail it. When we’re able to visit them again, we will.

More Answers

Here are some of the things I want to be sure I effectively communicate to my son in our conversations:

  1. We’re safe and we’re doing what we need to do to stay safe.
  2. It’s okay to feel scared. All feelings are okay. What we do with our big feelings is important and we need to practice some skills to help manage our big feelings.
  3. A lot of things in our daily lives have changed and there may be more changes we need to make, but we can work together as a family to make sure everyone understands the changes and is able to feel safe and comfortable with any changes.

Here are some good resources I’ve used: