What a crazy world we live in right now! I keep looking around from my current task and shake my head in disbelief at how different life has become in such a short time! While I am feeling so unsettled I can assure you the children in our world are feeling just as anxious. Talking to them about issues that bother us is not easy. How do we talk to young children about the heavy topic of Covid-19?
How do we reassure while we talk to our children?
Let’s start talking to our children by putting things in perspective! I set up my kindergarten lessons with three components:
- What do you know or think you know?
- What are you wondering about?
- What can we learn?
I began our “Virus Discussion” right before school closed down by asking my young students what they were already knew about this virus news. They responded with various answers. They said that people were getting sick and we would be getting out of school. I know that lots of things go on inside their heads, so I had them begin by asking me questions. I used stories and analogies to connect on their level. THIS is very important. We don’t want to overfill their heads with too many details. Little kids just want to know how things affect them!
Bring big conversations down to a child’s level.
Next I brought our conversation to their level and it went a bit like this, “So, the next few weeks may be a bit scary. Adults and leaders all over our country and world are trying to problem solve and prepare the best they can. We get prepared for things too. Remember that we get out our supply pouches every day?” Nods & yeses. “Well what do we have in them?” crayons, markers, pencils, erasers, glue sticks, and scissors “Do we need all of those things just for morning work?” No, we just need our pencils! “That’s right, we only get out what we need for the job we are about to do. Having our pencil pouches handy keeps us prepared for whatever work we will do throughout our school day.”
Make a connection children can understand.
“We do a lot of things to prepare for big problems, too. Can you all think of big things we prepare for?” Oh yeah, fires, tornadoes, earthquakes, bad guys… “That’s right, and we have special drills to practice for these kinds of problems even though they probably won’t happen. Isn’t it better to be prepared for just-in-case-things?” Nods & yeses all around
Keep it simple so it makes sense.
When I talk to children I must keep it simple. Their eyes just glaze over with confusion if you try to get to detailed. So I said, “So all the leaders throughout our school, city, state, and even country are meeting together and problem solving how to keep us healthy with this very scary new virus. Remember that a virus is a germ you can’t see, so it makes it very tricky.” Nods & yeses “So there will be lots of meetings, decisions, and information coming out that will help us stay as safe and healthy as we can be. One way is to stay healthy is to stay away from large groups of people so we don’t get ourselves sick or accidentally get someone else sick. That makes sense, doesn’t it? Closing school will help that problem.”
Look on the bright side to give hope to the children.
Finally, I explained that there are good things that can come out of a problem like this. I make sure they know how fun it will be to learn in a new way. They will be able to be creative with their time, too. I also let them know that adults will need to be creative in new ways, too because this is a first-time-thing for everyone!
I always try to end a big conversation with a funny story to lighten things up, so I told them about the mad dash for toilet paper & that there wasn’t any left on the shelves! Whenever you mention potty stuff to five-year-olds it is always funny. I shared that I actually sent my husband out to get some toilet paper for proof, but he came back empty handed. My question… “What is everyone doing with all that toilet paper??” I got a lot of good answers as only five-year-olds can give!! AND a lot of laughs. Mission accomplished. I eased the fears for the time being.
For ideas on working with young children virtually, check out my post on Zoom activities here.