Have you had the talk yet?

No, the other one. How are you talking to your kids about COVID-19?

Now, I know I’m not supposed to say no all the time, or swear, but sometimes it’s just warranted. I mean, afterall, we are living through the age of COVID. Of social distancing.

Of washing our hands until they’re redraw.

Little rambunctious boys don’t understand. Hell, it’s not clear many adults understand.

How am I supposed to keep this little human being alive when, even in normal times, that’s an uphill battle. 

 I mean, sometimes it really seems like he’s trying to destroy himself.

The real question is how to get across the seriousness of the situation without underselling it or seeming overly anxious? Well, luckily there are several authorities much smarter than I am to help get us through the day and teach us Dads talking to their kids about this COVID-19 situation.

Stay Calm

This sounds like one of those easier said than done kinds of things. And, to a large degree, it is. But setting the proper tone allows your child to, hopefully, understand that this isn’t a monster or something to be terrified of (even though it is pretty damned scary). 

Since kids pick up on your energy, it’s important that before you sit down to have the talk about why they can’t go outside or see their friends (or go back to school) that you take some time out to really quiet your own anxious mind.

I like to reflect on the active Buddhist teachings of Thich Nhat Hanh. He developed his school of thought during the Vietnam war, but it’s perfectly applicable to the anxieties we’re feeling now as well.

Focus On Hygiene When Talking to Your Kids About COVID-19

We all know kids are little germ monsters. That’s why the schools sent them all home in the first place. This is the perfect time to really instill some excellent basic hygiene. While you’re watching over them. While you’re homeschooling them. While you’ve got the captive audience.

Talking to your kids about COVID-19 involves stressing hand washing. Go do it right now.
At least 30 seconds right?

Make it a habit to not just constantly wash their hands, but to wipe down their video game controllers and devices between uses. To wash their hands after playing with the pets or with their toys.

Avoid Stigma

If there’s one social arena kids seem to excel in, it’s stigmatizing the other.

They can be such cruel, hierarchical little primates.

Usually, that just involves another kid for, like, no reason. But right now, when you’re talking to your kids about COVID-19, it’s important to make sure they aren’t blaming a pandemic on any one group of people. 

That’s called racism, and it’s bullshit. 

So avoid linguistic absurdities like Wuhan Virus, or Chinese Virus… even if the President is using those terms. Speaking of which…

Be Honest and Accurate

There’s way too much misinformation and outright lying going on about this virus. The last thing our kids need is for us to instill in them the importance of telling the truth in every instance and then lie to them about this situation.

It’s going to be bad enough when they find out we completely snowed them on Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy, Trickle Down Economics, the importance of a college degree, and the realistic chance they’ll be able to retire.

We don’t need to add the pandemic to the list. 

So don’t watch the news in front of them as you’re going to have a hard time explaining what the leaders of the country just said with what reality is. Make sure your kids aren’t on social media too early, and if they are, that they have a healthy sense of skepticism. There are still too many truthers, anti-vaxxers, and MAGA supporters out there on the internet making things up out of thin air. 

Instead, use trusted sources like local government websites, counties, cities and the like. Trust the scientists. The epidemiologists. Possibly the CDC. But do your research yourself, because when they come and ask you what is real, you’d better have a straightforward answer. 

And, be ready to say “I don’t know” if you don’t know. No harm in that. There’s tons of stuff I don’t know. I didn’t know most of what’s in this article before I looked it up.

Focus on the Brightside

Yes, it’s a pandemic. Yes, it’s a highly infectious and deadly disease. Yes, COVID-19 has upended our daily lives, in some ways, irrevocably. But, that said, as parents, we shouldn’t be all doom and gloom.

Our kids deserve a sense of innocence, and that’s being strained right now. We’re all pretty on edge and anxious. And that’s spilling over into our children’s lives.

Just last week I saw a woman storm out of her house as her kids were screaming after her. “I JUST NEED 5 GOD DAMNED MINUTES.” Honestly, I empathize. That’s why it’s so important to return to point number 1 and the teachings of Thich Nhat Hanh.

We need to recognize our emotions and not so much fight them, as just let them pass. Because they will pass. We need to practice compassion, love and joy. 

We need to look on the bright side. Because, believe it or not, there is a bright side to this.

With the kids out of school and so many of us working from home for the next several months, we have an opportunity no generation in our lifetimes has had. We get to spend so much more precious time together. And yeah, being on top of eachother 24/7 can be stressful, but it can also be extremely rewarding and invaluable. 

So when we’re talking to our kids about COVID-19, we should do well to remember to convey that part too. Being cooped up inside together isn’t the worst thing in the world.

Wrapping Up

Talking to our kids about COVID-19 isn’t easy. No two ways about that. But it doesn’t have to be impossible. If we can stay calm and keep some perspective, then we might just come out of the other side of quarantine in one piece… one family unit. 

And that family unit might just be a hell of a lot cleaner.