Talking to Kids about Coronavirus and Quarantining

Just this morning Governor Evers issued the “Stay at Home” order for Wisconsin residents, and so I headed out for what will be my new routine—the after-lunch “recess” walk. About four blocks in, and I spot this little drawing—an animated snowman we’ve all come to know, captioned with these seemingly prophetic song lyrics: “This will all make sense when I am older”.

This was a gut-punch. There is so much about this pandemic that we as adults are trying to grasp:

  • How did our everyday lifestyle become so disrupted—by a virus?
  • What are the real risks to my family’s health?
  • What can we do and what can’t we do? The rules change daily!
  • Where is God in this anyway?

If we’re wrestling with these thoughts, you know that our kids are struggling even more. I believe that the sidewalk snowman has it right—someday they WILL make sense of it, but for now, how do we explain what’s going on, and reduce their anxiety at the same time?

There are countless articles on talking to kids about Covid-19. I’ve read a lot of them, and I’m combining the best with some of my own experiences as an educator, pastor, and mom of three to give you these guidelines:

  • There’s what you say, and there’s how you say it. How: Model a calm, confident faith. Kids will take their cue from you, and will pick up on your tone and attitude even more than your words.
  • What you say: Answer kids’ questions matter-of-factly, and with age-appropriate terms. For a 6th grader, this might be “pandemic”, for a 5-year old, this might be “bad sickness”. Resist giving more information than they need.
  • Avoid “scary” or extreme language, including “national emergency,” “unlike anything we’ve seen before” or hourly counts of confirmed cases and deaths. These things may be true, but not necessary for young children to know.
  • Curtail TV, radio and other media. Stay informed, but limit your intake of these, especially when kids are listening.
  • Replace media with worship music, and watch the environment of your home change. One mom I spoke with staves off the worst hour of the day by plugging in a diffuser and turning on some quiet instrumental music to bring down the whining and tension.
  • Grieve the losses. At times, we feel like the whole world is in a collective “time-out”—no sports, no school, no parties—no normal. You can’t cover it up with a silver lining—this is HARD. Let your kids acknowledge that.
  • Focus on gratitude. Start a gratitude journal, or a “gratitude jar” (see my Psalm 92 kids’ devotional on the Eastbrook Kids’ Facebook page). Having many things stripped away gives us laser focus on the good gifts that God IS still giving us daily. Counting the ways that He helped us today fuels our faith for tomorrow.
  • “Let the word of God dwell richly” – consider a family memory verse or passage. A few timely ones include: 2 Timothy 1:7; Psalm 46:1; Psalm 121 (all of it—it’s short!) or John 16:33.

This last verse is critical—Jesus tells us that we will have trouble in this world—and that includes emergencies like Coronavirus. But, He also tells us to “Take heart!” He is the only One who holds the victory and promises to be with us until that victory is realized on earth.

Where is God in this?

It might help to frame your discussion in light of the 4-chapter gospel: Creation, the Fall, Redemption, Restoration. God created a good and perfect (healthy) world—Creation. When people chose their own way instead of God’s way, they sinned, and sin brought with it all kinds of broken, sad things including sickness and death—the Fall.  God’s rescue plan for all this brokenness and sadness was to send Jesus to pay for sin—to make a way back to God—Redemption.  One day, when Jesus returns to rule, He will completely destroy sickness death, and every kind of sadness!—Restoration. Right now, we live in the “not yet”. Jesus has rescued us from sin so that we can know Him and live with Him, but we are not yet in the perfect world that He will bring about.

Right now, we can call out to Jesus for healing and help. We can trust Him to be with us at all times, and we look forward to living with Him and His people forever.

Laure Herlinger

Sr. Director, NextGen Ministries

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