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Managing COVID-19 Anxiety & Stress


Talking with Your Child & Teen About Infectious Diseases (such as the Coronavirus) … Helping to Relieve Anxieties


With all the information out about Infectious Diseases, such as the COVID-19, coronavirus, many people may have concerns and anxieties looming about their own health and the spread of the disease. As parents, we may have questions about how to talk to our children about the disease. With that in mind, we wanted to offer ways to support you from the social-emotional side. Please click to watch the video below from P-H-M's Director of Social-Emotional Learning & Mental Health Jennifer Sears, Ph.D. 



Dr. Sears has also prepared a multitude of tips and resources below for parents.


  • The following are guidelines or suggestions on the type of information that is age-appropriate for most. Remember, you know your child best.
    • Early Elementary: Keep the conversation brief, simple and stick to the facts. Assure the child home and school are safe. Let the child know IF someone gets sick, adults will help. Help the child learn ways to stay healthy, such as washing their hands, maintaining a sanitary environment, eating properly, getting enough rest, etc. 
    • Upper Elementary and Early Middle Schoolers: Share facts as above, but keep in mind children at this age are processing information more and may question if they are really safe. Therefore, it is important to separate fact from rumor. Share the ways people at home and school are taking measures to help keep them healthy. Monitor or limit media intake.
    • Upper Middle School and High Schoolers: Information can be shared more in-depth and more adult-like. Be honest, accurate and factual. Make sure they feel a sense of control in the situation, which comes by engaging in activities that will help keep themselves and others be healthy. Monitor media intake. 
  • Key Talking Points: When you talk with your child, keep the above in mind as well as a few key talking points for your consideration -- State that at home and school, adults are taking every effort to keep everyone safe. Not everyone will get the disease/virus. Steps are being made to limit the spread of the disease and care for those who are sick. They can do things to help stay healthy (i.e., wash hands with soap and water, use alcohol-based hand sanitizer, avoid contact with people who are sick, do not touch your mouth, eyes, nose or face, use your elbow to catch your sneeze or cough, clean and disinfect surface areas, etc.).
  • Here are some additional helpful suggestions about how to talk with your child about Infectious Diseases, such as the COVID-19:

    •  Be available and present: Take a few minutes to have a conversation with your child. Chances are they have heard something about the virus, and if not, it is a good time to set the tone with your child. Stick to the facts and reassure them that everyone is making every reasonable effort to keep people safe. Tell them you are aware of the symptoms (e.g., fever, cough, shortness of breath, per the CDC) and will monitor their health and seek immediate medical attention if you have concerns.

    • Remain calm and reassuring: Children will imitate what is modeled for them, so keep your voice calm, soothing and reassuring as you talk to them. Tell your child your family and the school are taking every precaution to help keep them safe.

    • Do not blame others: At times, we may find ourselves blaming a person or group of people, but it is really important to avoid stereotyping and blaming, especially in an instance when no one has meant to cause any harm. Any negative talk should be stopped and if there are concerns, you can report this to the school or make a call to the Safe School Helpline.

    • Listen to Concerns to Help Keep them Manageable: As do adults, children’s minds can wonder and they can imagine horrible situations. They may be worried about their loved ones becoming sick. Listen to their concerns, stick to the facts, and only share age-appropriate information. You know your child best.

    • Be aware of signs of anxiety in your children. You may notice some behaviors in your child that are a little out of character. For instance, on the mild side, they may hang around you more, seem clingy or want to be with you to help build a sense of security. Be patient. Younger children will have more difficulty expressing their worries than older children so they may not be able to put their thoughts into words, but their behaviors will help you gauge what they are feeling. Also keep in mind, young children may ask a few questions, play and then come back with more questions. They are unpacking a lot of information and attempting to make sense of it based on their experiences and knowledge. This is why it is important to stick to facts, answer what you are able to and what is age-appropriate, and prevent or limit access to media or talk that will heighten concerns.

  • Other Important Considerations:

    • Relieving Anxieties: Oftentimes, we feel a sense of anxiety because we do not feel in control or want to gain some control over the situation. With this in mind, remind children and adults alike that they have a sense of control in that they can help prevent the spread of the virus by taking appropriate measures to keep their hands sanitized using soap and warm water or an alcohol-based sanitizer, not touching face or mouth, not touching others, covering their mouths when they cough or sneeze, not eating or drinking after others, which all can provide provide a sense of control in people that they are not spreading the virus. We can also feel a sense of control when we take measures to stay healthy and give our immune system what it needs to keep our bodies healthy by eating right and getting enough sleep for their age. Assess your own risk to gain a sense of control over your health. Please consider speaking with your medical provider if you have individual concerns. The CDC also offers information on risks to different populations.​​ Please find the link here to CDC Website with information about people at high risk. If you know your risk, you can take the recommended precautions in order to help gain a sense of control, which will help alleviate some anxieties.

    • Self-Care: It is vital that we continue to engage in self-care activities to promote physical, psychological, personal, emotional, spiritual and professional well-being and help strengthen our ability to be resilient, or bounce back. If you are feeling more stress during this time, it is a good idea to make self-care more of a priority than it usually is for you. Self-care activities include eating and exercising properly, getting plenty of sleep, as well as engaging in activities that are safe and you enjoy.

    • Flexible Thinking: Practice flexible thinking, which is thinking about things in a new way. During times of change, we can practice flexible thinking when we think about our routine, for example. During times of change, we can practice cognitive flexibility by realizing we might do school work differently than normal, but we are still learning-we are just going about it in new ways than we typically do.

    • Supervise media consumption. Make sure information is age appropriate. Sensitive topics such as death can cause extreme worry and confusion. Limit the amount of time and conversation surrounding the Infectious Disease (e.g. COVID-19). While it is important to take precautions, adults should not dwell on the topic or share information with students that can be frightening and cause unnecessary panic. Reference the for the most accurate information. Communication regarding school will come from school administration. Be careful not to get caught up in rumors. If you have specific concerns, please report those to your child’s school. Rather than spending too much time with social media, especially with your children around (remember, they pick up on more than you know), engage in a game or other healthy activity to build relationships and ease their concerns by having the attention and presence of an adult. 

Additional Resources: