This week staying at home just got real for everyone. Most public places are closed, church has been cancelled indefinitely, stores are out of canned food and toilet paper, and we are not doing play dates. We homeschool, so thankfully our school routine will be pretty much unchanged at a time where everyone is experiencing state wide school closures. But other areas of life are changing quickly, and the kids are noticing.
Yesterday was the first day I shared with my kids ages 6.5 and younger what’s been going on in the world and in our city. I really didn’t want to scare them, but tried to talk about it in an age appropriate way that satisfied their questions. If you want a few pointers on how to bring up the virus without scaring your kids, here’s what we did.
Now is a great time to learn about germs
This may be obvious, but the best place to start if you haven’t already is to help your little kids understand what a germ is. In our family, this usually starts at the same age we learn about hand washing.
For toddlers, we explain that germs are tiny things we can’t see that can make us sick when they get inside our bodies. That our bodies have ways to fight bad germs but even still, the best thing to do is to wash hands with soap and water before we eat and after we go poop and pee. Simple, and they seem to grasp it.
My kids love this YouTube of StoryBots: Wash Your Hands And Why Do We Get Sick
Be honest with them about what’s going on…they can feel a change
Maybe you are nervous, and your kids sense it. Or likely their school is closing and yet they don’t know a single sick person. Perhaps they want to go on that trip you had planned and don’t understand you’re not going. More likely, they have seen you try and buy a few extra things for the pantry.
Or, if your like me…you had 2 rolls of toilet paper left and were driving all 3 kids around town to multiple stores to find some left. Because Target, Amazon, Walgreens, Staples, and Walmart were all sold out online.
For me, that was a natural time to tell my children about what’s been going on because they can physically see changes in the way people are shopping (long lines, no toilet paper, and a sense of panic from others as we were out shopping). Here’s what I told them.
How I told my young kids about the virus without scaring them
When they woke up yesterday morning, I had one mission. To find myself a pack of toilet paper before we had to ask a friend.
I said, “You guys, we are going to get dressed, and go buy some toilet paper. It may take us a while to find some, because a lot of people are buying extra supplies right now. There is a virus that is making people sick. It mostly affects grandmas and grandpas, but other people can get sick too, and anyone can spread it. In order to help keep it from spreading, lots of people may be staying home for a while, and the schools are going to close for a few weeks.”
My 6 year old said, “So they don’t spread the virus?”
My son, “Wow! No school.”
Me: “I’m also going to go to the library tomorrow to get us a big bag of books because the library may close for a while” (Our library in our previous city is already closed for the next month, so I’m assuming it could happen here soon). Update: Our libraries have closed, 1 day after writing this post.
My son: “Because of the virus?”
That was our conversation. He was satisfied. It’s fluid though, and more questions will come up.
But they need an explanation for why we are not at church, why bible study is cancelled, why the science center is closed, and why we are not having any play dates for weeks. My kids are very used to being home (homeschooled), but other areas of their life will change for a while.
What I didn’t tell my kids (at least for now)
Anything they don’t need to know that could really amplify their fears, I left out.
They don’t need to know that daddy’s conference got cancelled (that they didn’t know about). Or that older people have died from the virus. Or that I’m worried about my parents who are in their 70’s and live in one of the “hot spots” in the US. Or that our relatives are being sent home from Europe due to the virus. Or that other countries have overrun hospitals and cannot take care of all the sick.
But if they are old enough to ask a specific question, I’ll answer them. They need to feel safe, and to know why things that affect them are happening. But they don’t need to know every detail that will frighten them.
Tell them the truth
My philosophy is to answer their questions with as little detail as they need to be satisfied.
A young child might be fine with “We are going to be staying home for a while and can’t go to church because it’s been cancelled.” An older child might want to know why, and I think it’s good to satisfy their questions as they come up.
If they ask me if people can die from it, I will not lie to them. I would tell them yes, but that it’s still very rare and most people get better.
If they ask me if daddy could get sick at work at the hospital, I’ll tell them it’s possible but not likely. And even if he did he would most likely get better but would need to stay home so he doesn’t spread the germs.
If they ask me how you get the virus, I’ll tell them. It gets inside your body like other germs do, through your nose, mouth, and eyes. So if someone is coughing or sneezing, it can spread to other people or surfaces. I’d explain that’s why it’s so important to wash hands when we go places. And to stay home too.
If they ask me why I’m more strict now about their hand washing before meals, after using the bathroom, and after going to public places, I’ll tell them it’s to help keep them healthy and to keep from spreading germs to people who are more vulnerable.
Basic answers, but truthful.
Your actions speak louder than words
I read this post on Instagram yesterday and it really stuck with me. Your kids are watching you.
When they ask if things are ok, and mama says yes but they see mama shoveling things into a shopping cart, cleaning the house like mad, stressed out, on her phone 24/7 for the newest information…it scares them.
Stay calm for your kids. Caution is needed but not fear. Part of having any kind of abundance is not just for your family, but so that you have extra to share with those in need.
Posts that may help you during school closures with your young kids
Playing Preschool Curriculum Review by Busy Toddler (On sale 25% off for school closures)
How are your kids doing with news of the staying home and school cancellations?
How are you sharing this with your kids? There’s no one perfect way to do it. We are all in this together and want to make our kids feel safe at a time when so much socially is changing.