How to address and reduce kids’ fears about COVID-19

With COVID-19 spreading in the U.S., children are likely hearing a lot about the outbreak from TV, the internet, or other kids. Some of what they hear may frighten them.

That’s understandable–recent headlines may have you anxious too. You can help calm any concerns your children or grandchildren have by talking with them about COVID-19.

Blue Cross® Blue Shield® of Arizona (BCBSAZ) is here to support our members at every age and stage. We’ve gathered these tips for parents or grandparents to help chat with children about feelings, fears, and fallacies related to the pandemic.

  • Stick to age-appropriate messages. We have a collection of colorful, printable overviews to start the COVID-19 conversation. Choose from these versions:
    • Ages 3-6. Friendly cartoon animals pose questions and deliver answers about school, social distancing, and hygiene.
    • Ages 6-12. Illustrated characters offer explanations about COVID-19 and how kids can protect themselves and others.
    • Ages 13-18. Seven tips to combat the spread of COVID-19, including how teens can take personal responsibility, stay connected, and calm anxieties.

  • Let them know they can ask about COVID-19. Don’t force conversations, but be available to have them when your children or grandchildren express curiosity or interest in the topic.

  • Be honest, calm, and reassuring. We’re all concerned about the potential risks of COVID-19, and it’s fine to acknowledge that. In fact, healthy levels of anxiety serve a purpose—helping to protect us from certain threats. If anxiety elevates to panic, though, it becomes unproductive and that doesn’t help anybody. While you can’t guarantee that COVID-19 won’t come to your community, you can reassure children and teens that many adults are working hard to keep them safe. Younger ones, especially, may need to hear that from you.

  • Fight fear with facts. Reassure young people you know that not everyone will get sick with COVID-19. Explain that many people who do get the virus will only have a mild illness.

  • Tell them how to stay healthy. We don’t have a COVID-19 vaccine yet. (Scientists are working on that.) In the meantime, knowing how to help prevent COVID-19 may help kids feel less anxious. Refer to the kid-friendly guides we’ve posted on our website for tips on good hygiene.

  • Be prepared to address rumors, xenophobia (fear or mistrust of strangers or people from other countries), and blame. Sadly, some people may say wrong and hurtful things, perhaps even blaming groups of people or their products for the virus. (No, you can’t get COVID-19 in a letter or package from China.) If other people say such things around your family, talk to your children or grandchildren about why you feel those things are wrong to say. Remind kids not to spread rumors themselves either.

  • Just be there for them. It’s always important to give children lots of love and attention, but they may need a little more of it now.

Rely on the power of information
Learn more about coping with anxiety at Mobilize AZ.