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Family First with FOX43: Talking to you kids about COVID-19

With Coronavirus talk pretty much everywhere in society, a local psychologist lends her expertise on how parents should handle talking about the pandemic in-house.

HARRISBURG, Pa. — Adults may be mature enough to handle conversations about the COVID-19 pandemic in their own circles. What happens, though, when the kids are in the room? You don't want to lose the valuable extra family time you're getting while schools and businesses are closed. Yet, you don't want to scare your children.

Dr. Melissa Brown, a psychologist with UPMC Pinnacle in Harrisburg, says there are three central ways to address the Coronavirus with your family.

First, she says, is to be calm when talking to them.

"I always remind parents they set the tone for the kids. If you’re panicked and worried and exhibiting that worry they’re going to absorb that," Dr. Brown said. "They know something is happening, so it's important to discuss with them how they are doing, and how they are managing the changes."

Next, Dr. Brown says, is to be honest with them.

"I don’t encourage lying. You use appropriate language, and ask, 'What does your child know? You may get this, this is what we know, this how we’re treating it,' and be that calm reassuring voice.

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Which segues perfectly into the third point, which is use all the extra family time to reassure and comfort the kids.

"Often times we’re focused on what we can’t do," Dr. Brown said, "and that is scary because this is our child's life. Maybe they can’t see their grandparents or cousins, but you can tell them what they can do, and what is being done, and tell them government and hospitals are working hard."

Dr. Brown says the canceled activities and disruptions to daily life are not easy on a still-developing child. She suggests parents do those canceled activities at home with them. If you're unable to do that, she says some classic board games will do the trick in keeping their minds sharp.