How to Talk to Kids About COVID-19: An Interview with Family Therapist Tonya Ramsburg

Family Therapist, Tonya Ramsburg shares tips on how to talk to kids about COVID-19

We spoke with licensed Family Therapist, Tonya Ramsburg, MA, LMFT, in a virtual conversation about the concerns of families during this time. Tonya Ramsburg has 15 years of experience providing therapy to children and families all over the world, and is a mother to a five-year-old and a two-year-old.

 

In our conversation, we explore how to talk to kids about COVID-19 and balance the needs of everyone in your family and how to address some of the challenging situations that come from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Have more questions?

We’re dedicated to providing our community with expert-approved answers. If you have questions that were not covered in our conversation, please email sciencelive@osc.org

Looking for more?

The resources listed below provide valuable information, tips, and materials to help your family navigate our ever-changing world during this pandemic.

Everyday Help and Information for Caregivers During COVID-19 and Beyond:

  • Vroom

    “This period of change with COVID-19 may bring new challenges, but you already have what it takes! We’ve collected some simple and fun ways to boost brain building at home together with your child. Even a few minutes count.”

    Vroom provides convenient tips for caregivers to bring learning into your everyday routines. These tips are science and research-based and center around a child’s developing brain, with easy-to-understand explanations included for adults.

  • Zero to Three

    “The following resources offer tips for families including age-appropriate responses to common questions, a guide to self-care, and activities for young children experiencing social distancing.”

    Zero to Three provides research-based information for our youngest children. They have created and compiled many informative, empathetic resources for parenting babies and toddlers

  • Conscious Discipline

    “For 20+ years, “We’re all in this together,” has been a core tenet of Conscious Discipline. It seems ironic that a virus that requires social distancing to slow its spread has drawn our attention to how intimately connected we truly are as friends, neighbors, communities and nations. Safety, connection and problem-solving are the most valuable contribution we can offer to those around us as we navigate these unprecedented times (and beyond). Breathe with me. We can handle this … together.”

    Conscious Discipline focuses on evidence-based social emotional learning and is often used in schools to help children feel safe, welcome, and ready to learn. They have put together many great resources for appropriate and wise guidance for your family during the pandemic. Be sure to scroll through the whole page for webinars, printables, and podcasts.

  • Child Mind Institute

    “We know parents are struggling to balance work, child care and self-care while keeping worries — both your children’s and your own — under control. You don’t have to do it alone.”

    Child Mind Institute is a national non-profit organization dedicated to helping children who have mental and learning differences. Their COVID-19 resource page includes helpful information for families with children who have specific needs such as autism, anxiety, and PTSD. They provide parental guidance on a wide range of subjects and for a wide range of ages. 

  • National Geographic: Talking to Kids About Xenophobia

    “In time, coronavirus infections will likely start to slow—and perhaps the related hate incidents against people of Asian descent will slow with it. But xenophobia is something that’s always with us, which is why it’s important for parents to teach their kids to fight it.”

    This article from National Geographic talks about ways to recognize, understand, prevent, and address xenophobia with our children. (Please be aware that National Geographic only allows access to a limited number of digital articles each month. If you have already hit your limit of free articles, you will need to purchase a subscription to read this article right away or wait until the next month.)

  • Unicef: 5 Ways to Fight Racism and Xenophobia

    “Celebrating other cultures emphasizes the fact that we are all people and sends the message that racism and xenophobia will not be tolerated in a civil society. It is our job, as people, as parents, as citizens of the world, to combat racism and xenophobia wherever we can.”

    This article provides guidance for individuals and parents in responding to racism as a result of COVID-19. 

  • Teaching Tolerance: Speaking Up Against Racism Around the New Coronavirus

    “Even if your students do not represent the identities likely to be harmed by racist comments around the coronavirus, or you believe they’re not spreading misinformation and repeating racist tropes, exploring anti-AAPI rhetoric around the virus is still worthy of critical conversations in the classroom.”

    While this article is geared towards educators, it also includes helpful context and information for parents around bias and rhetoric our children are exposed to beyond what we may be aware of.

  • Coronavirus Books for Children

    “Several medical organizations and countless child educators and health teachers have been involved in the creation of storybooks for children. While many coronavirus books for children are likely to be soon published, here’s a closer look at a few outstanding and widely different examples…”

     

    This listing includes a variety of books and comics available for free and provided by experts from varying fields and backgrounds.

These stories provide you with a tool to talk to your children about COVID-19 and help answer some of their questions with age-appropriate language and images.

 

  • A Curious Guide for Courageous Kids

    “To prevent the virus from having too much fun jumping from one person to the next, day and night, scientists and doctors are studying how to defeat it. They say that we shouldn’t be too afraid, we should be cautious. But there is something you can do to keep it from spreading. It’s called prevention.

  • Tara Tuchel: Seeing Other People Wearing Masks

    “Some people wear glasses, some people wear hats, and some people wear masks. Seeing people wearing masks is different But, it’s okay!”

Tools to Help Children with Anxiety and Other Big Emotions

  • Save the Children: Relaxation Activities

    “School closings, sick friends and family members, isolation at home – these and other factors can cause anxiety and stress for children during this coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. As the world’s leading expert on childhood, we’re sharing these drama-based relaxation exercises that are part of our global Healing and Education through the Arts (HEART) program for children living in stressful situations.”


    In this list, you will find specific breathing and relaxation techniques that use visualizations and dramatic play to help children de-stress.

 

  • PBS: How You and Your Kids Can De-Stress During Coronavirus

    “Research shows that just being in the presence of a compassionate, safe adult con help kids calm down. As families, we can be “that person” for each other.”


    PBS shares various techniques for relaxing and combating anxiety using familiar characters from their children’s shows.

  • Messenger Kids

     

    “Messenger Kids is a free video calling and messaging app for smartphones and tablets*. Parents manage the contact list, and kids control the fun. Keep in touch with close friends and family with fun-filled features like filters and stickers.”

Kids News

These websites can help you share current world news with your children in simpler, more age-appropriate language. Please take some time to review these websites before sharing since all of the content may not be appropriate for your child. Check in with your children as you review the news and start conversations about how they are feeling and what concerns they might have about what you are learning together. 

 

  • News for Kids

    “We believe the name says it all. NewsForKids.net was created by a teacher to make the news accessible to kids. We carefully choose high interest stories appropriate to the audience, and present them in a way that is easy to understand. News is necessarily complicated and messy. There’s a lot to know. We strive to make each article as self-contained as possible, giving the necessary background and not assuming that the reader already has certain knowledge.”

  • DOGO 

    “DOGO Media is the leading online network empowering kids to engage with digital media in a fun, safe and social environment. Used by millions of students and teachers from around the world, our websites have quickly grown into a community of kids and educators engaging positively with current events, books, and movies. DOGO [doh-GOH] means young or small in Swahili. While our young fans may be small, they act BIG as they engage with our websites and express their opinions on the content that interests and inspires them.”

  • Time for Kids

    “Since 1995, TIME for Kids has published a weekly magazine for elementary school students. With exclusive access to TIME’s award-winning content, TIME for Kids is uniquely positioned to teach kids to recognize and value authentic and trustworthy journalism.”

  • Scholastic: Kids Press

    “Scholastic Kids Press is a group of talented Kid Reporters, ages 10–14, from across the country and around the world. Since 2000, our award-winning young journalists have reported "news for kids, by kids," covering politics, entertainment, the environment, sports, and more in their hometowns and on the national stage.”