How to talk to kids about the coronavirus & ease their fears about going back to school

Posted at 6:08 AM, Jul 30, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-30 12:16:05-04

(WXYZ) — With the coronavuris still circulating and a mask mandate in public spaces ad schools right around the corner, there are a lot of unanswered questions. That goes for adults and children.
How do you answer your child's questions, lower their anxiety and keep them safe? We're helping you out.

Dana Leischner is a mother of 5 and a former Birmingham teacher. Her husband is an ER doctor so the coronavirus is a reality in their home.

Child and adolescent therapist Dr. Jason Vannest said tailoring conversations to each child's personality can help them stay physically and emotionally healthy.

"Think about these type of sensitive conversations in the same light, in-depth, as if you were talking about the birds and bees with your kid," he said.

So a 5th grader doesn't need the same details as a 10th grader.

For the little ones who don't respond well to direct conversations, Vanest said to use your child's tendency to listen to adult conversations to answer questions and ease anxiety. He calls it peeky ears.

"Having intentional conversations with another adult while the child is within earshot," he said.

So, he might ask his wife Rebecca how she's feeling about kids going back to school

"And my wife would give a very intentional response and say, Jason, I think the schools are making smart decisions. They've set up parameters that will keep children safe," he said.

This avoids sitting little kids down for what can feel like a big talk.

Vannest also said watch for signs of anxiety, agitation, or irritability. They may not have the language to express what they're feeling.

"I can do hard things. And this is a great, multicultural, diverse book that talks about empowering, enable the kid to work through fears and anxieties that they're struggling with," he added.

If your child seems to be struggling for a day or two, that's normal. Even up to a week. But if that period of time goes on for a couple of weeks, it might signal there's more they're struggling with and getting help would be the next step.

Additional Coronavirus information and resources:

Click here for a page with resources including a COVID-19 overview from the CDC, details on cases in Michigan, a timeline of Governor Gretchen Whitmer's orders since the outbreak, coronavirus' impact on Southeast Michigan, and links to more information from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, the CDC and the WHO.

View a global coronavirus tracker with data from Johns Hopkins University.

See complete coverage on our Coronavirus Continuing Coverage page.

Visit our The Rebound Detroit, a place where we are working to help people impacted financially from the coronavirus. We have all the information on everything available to help you through this crisis and how to access it.