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Tips and Scripts for Talking with Kids During Uncertain Times

March 17, 2020


We interrupt the Positive Discipline blog series to bring you these helpful tips and some scripts on how to talk to children during uncertain times. My goal, as an expert on trauma and childhood resilience, is to minimize stress for children wherever and whenever possible.

Here are some scripts you may find helpful.
For young children (2-5) 
“Sometimes the world gets a little crazy. Mommy & Daddy (any caregiver) always keep you safe. We’re just taking some extra steps to keep other people healthy too.” Give real life examples such as grandma who’s in a nursing home, a neighbor who needs groceries, or why mom is working from home now.

For middle age children (6-10) 
“Wow, you’ve probably heard some stuff on the news that seems scary. What questions do you have? I want to let you know, our family is trying to stay healthy, so we’re taking some extra steps like (washing our hands, taking breaks from the mall, not visiting grandpa) until everyone feels healthy again.” 
Regarding School – “It’s important that everyone is safe. School is a really safe place; and at the same time, we want teachers and kids to be healthy, so for now, we’re taking breaks from big groups because colds and viruses like big crowds with lots of people. But we can still do some learning at home – let’s get some books out or check out some fun websites to stay sharp!” 
“Of course, we can send a card or an email to your teacher to let him/her know we’re thinking of him/her.”
“School will be back in session as soon as the adults figure out a plan to keep everyone healthy. For now, let’s let that be an adult worry. You just need to stay healthy, play, read books every day and be sure to ask me questions if you feel worried.”

For older children (11-15)
“We know that the news, social media and TV in general has tons of information right now. Some of it is downright terrifying. What have you heard so far? What sources are you listening to? What are your friends saying? I want you to know you can come to me or (name another safe adult) at any time to ask questions or express your concerns. I’ll always give you factual information.” 
Regarding School – “Yes, school is cancelled for now. We don’t know when it will re-open for sure and we know there is a lot of speculation. I trust that your teachers are doing the best they can to work with your principal about homework, time away from students and how they can help you so you don’t get behind.” 
“Yes, we’ll check online when we can. School is important to you and to me. In the meantime, we can always find a project to do, read a book, or try a new hobby.”

For all
Overall, kids need safety and reassurance.

They will model their behavior and match their stress level based on you and how you respond. One thing you can do to encourage safety and build resilience is to make kids part of a plan of what they CAN do:

  • Send cards to people they love

  • Try a new hobby

  • Facetime loved ones

  • Deliver essential items to neighbors

  • Play

  • Replace media exposure with games, hobbies and walks outside

  • Ask your child – they have great ideas!!

I remind parents and children of my golden rule often:

Adults are responsible for adult worries. Adults are responsible for kids’ worries. Kids are NEVER responsible for adult worries.

Hug them, reassure them, take care of you….
Be well,
Dr. Amy

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