Expert tips on how to explain the coronavirus to children

Published: Mar. 12, 2020 at 10:49 PM EDT
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Starting as soon as Friday for many local families, students will be home for the next three weeks.

This situation is unprecedented and the coronavirus can be confusing and scary for many, especially children.

So, how do you explain to your kids what's happening and why?

13abc sat down with a local therapist to learn about how to best handle talking this out in your family.

The concept of cancelling everything -- from all big events and sports to now shutting down schools -- is something we've never dealt with before as a nation.

That can be hard for adults to wrap their minds around. So, imagine how challenging it all is for children.

As any parent will tell you: kids are like sponges. They soak up the energies, behaviors, and emotions around them. Meaning if you want your child to remain calm, the experts said then you also need to take a deep breath.

Licensed counselor Erin Wiley said it's important to validate your kid's feelings.

"Once you're able to validate someone, being able to explain that the odds are in our favor, and that not everyone will get it, and that even if you get it you probably won't be very sick is important, especially for nervous and anxious kids," said Wiley, LPC of The Willow Center.

K-12 students in Ohio will be home for the next three weeks. The governor is calling it an extended spring break.

A big concern for working parents is child care.

"After we find a healthy way to cope, we've got to look for ways that we can strategically plan how to take care of our kids in a situation where maybe we have to go to work," said Wiley.

For curious kids, learning the science behind it all from trusted websites could help keep minds busy.

"This provides a unique opportunity to talk about some science things. Like what is the coronavirus, and it's shaped like a crown under a microscope, and how is it transmitted through coughing and why we should be washing our hands," said Wiley.

Wiley hopes families use this time at home as a chance to re-frame a child's mindset by allowing them to focus on other passions and interests.

"This is time that most kids don't ever get to really focus on something different. I think teaching kids resilience involves looking at difficult situations and finding ways to not only power through, but to get something good out of the opportunity," said Wiley.