Talking to Children about COVID-19

Here is an essential principal of education: to teach details is to bring confusion; to establish the relationship between things is to bring knowledge.
—Maria Montessori
From Childhood to Adolescence

Adults aren’t the only ones who are concerned about the COVID-19 pandemic and its implications. As much as we try to shelter our children and students, they are worried, too. They hear things in passing, they sense the heightened sense of stress around them, and they have heard other children talking. It cannot be helped; it’s all around us right now. What we can do is offer comfort and help them to understand this very adult problem in the most developmentally appropriate means possible.

Talking to Children About COVID-19

It is important to tell the truth. Children deserve honesty and respect. That does not mean that we have to scare them with facts and figures and talks of quarantines. Children look to adults for protection. We need to reassure them that there are community helpers — doctors, nurses, scientists — who are doing their best to keep everyone safe. This is the job of community helpers.

In turn, we can give children jobs to keep themselves, their family, and their community safe. We can discuss the importance of good hygiene. We can make sure they understand the importance of frequent handwashing, proper disposal of used tissues, and modern practices of coughing into their elbow and not their hands.

It is our job as adults to turn off the news and limit social media viewing to times when children are not present. If the constant stream of information from the media is stressing us out, imagine how it must feel to be a child who does not yet have the capacity to discern fact from fiction or hype from information.

Practice empathy towards others. Now is the time to pull together for the greater common good.

Finally, it is important for children to feel that they can ask questions. Create a safe place where they are able to share their feelings. They might be worried about grandparents, angry because school is closed, or sad because they can’t see their friends. Ask them what they have heard or what is bothering them. If you do not know the answer to their questions, it is okay to say, “I don’t know” or “I’ll try to learn more about that.” You do not have to have all the answers. Children will respect you more if you admit to not knowing than if you were to make something up.

Above all else, we must remain the calm in the storm. It is not the job of the child to comfort the adult. Don’t let your stress or fear pervade your environment. Children look up to us to guide them. Let us guide them with love and compassion through this tumultuous time.

We shall walk together on this path of life, for all things are part of the universe and are connected with each other to form one whole unity.
—Maria Montessori
To Educate the Human Potential

— NAMC Staff


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