How to Talk to Your Child About COVID-19
OCTOBER 13, 2020
This tip sheet is designed to provide support and guidance for caregivers when talking about COVID-19 with their children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).
THE BENEFITS OF TALKING TO YOUR CHILD ABOUT COVID-19
It’s likely that your child has noticed changes in their routines caused by the spread of COVID-19. They will also hear things, in conversations or media coverage, about the pandemic. It is important to talk to your children about these issues.
Caregivers can play an important role in helping children make sense of what they hear. People fear what they don’t understand and explaining things in an honest but calm manner can go a long way to help your child regulate their own reactions. Helping them understand the changes, and process their related feelings, can make this process easier for everyone.
Individuals with autism may need additional support to process the news and adapt to the many changes they are facing. Understanding the consequences of infection can make them more able, or willing, to engage in isolation activities and hygiene practices that can slow the spread of infection.
- Support their understanding: Use direct and clear language to talk to your child about COVID-19. For example, you may say “The coronavirus is a type of germ. These germs are very tiny, and when they get inside your body, they can make you sick”. Consider using social narratives and visual supports.
- Offer opportunities for expression: Provide multiple opportunities for your child to express their feelings as they are able through family and individual discussions, writing activities, movie making, or play.
- Prioritize coping and calming skills: Allow opportunities for your child to engage in coping and calming strategies when needed (e.g., rocking in a chair, listening to music, etc.).
- Maintain routines: Individuals with autism may cope best when daily home routines are only minimally interrupted.
- Build new routines: It may also be necessary to create new routines during this time, as there are many new demands of caregivers. Consider using a visual schedule for support.
- Foster connections (from a distance): Build in opportunities for daily social contact with family, friends, or others via social media outlets.
- Be aware of changing behaviours: Caregivers should be aware of the behavior of individuals with autism during these uncertain times and be alert for signs of anxiety and depression.
- To support understanding:
- To encourage expression:
- To encourage the use of coping and calming strategies:
- Go Noodle – Free movement and mindfulness videos
- Virus Anxiety – Meditation exercises and information to help address anxiety
- For maintaining and building routines:
- To foster connections:
- To support changes in behavior, anxiety, and depression:
Centre for Disease Control. (2020). How to Protect Yourself and Others. Retrieved from CDC: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prevent-getting-sick/prevention.html
Ehmke, R. (2020). Talking to Kids About the Coronavirus. Retrieved from Child Mind Institute: https://childmind.org/article/talking-to-kids-about-the-coronavirus/
Faustino, P. (2015). Talking to your child about tragedy: Six tips for the autism community. Retrieved from Autism Speaks: https://www.autismspeaks.org/expert-opinion/talking-your-child-about-tragedy-six-tips-autism-community
Hume, K., Waters, V., Sam, A., Steinbrenner, J., Perkins, Y., Dees, B., Tomaszewski, B., Rentschler, L., Szendrey, S., McIntyre, N., White, M., Nowell, S., & Odom, S. (2020). Supporting individuals with Autism through uncertain times. UNC Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute.