Answering Common Questions of Children as a Result of COVID-19

By FCPS & Fairfax County Government
April 08, 2020

The normal routines of our children's lives have been turned upside down in the past few weeks. Their schools or child care facilities have closed. Their activities and clubs have been cancelled. Children have been separated from their friends and cannot go to playgrounds as we practice social distancing, and in some cases, quarantine. Even visits with loved ones like grandparents have ceased. This is distressing for children and many may struggle to understand what is occurring right now, leaving them with many questions.

You can visit our recent post,Talking to Children About COVID-19, for guidelines in having conversations with your children. Here we will look at some of the most asked questions children have as a result of the impact of COVID-19 and some feedback on how to answer them. 

Will I get sick? Will my family members get sick? What happens if we do?

These may be the most scary questions children have right now. It is best not to minimize the fears of children and tell them information that is not accurate, such as there is no possibility they or people they care about will get sick. Unfortunately, this may prove untrue and lead to more intense fears. It is best to let children know that as a family, you are doing what is necessary to keep everyone in the family healthy and safe. Let your children know that if someone in your family gets sick, you will then do everything you can to get them feeling better as quickly as possible. 

Why do I have to wash my hands so much?

Let your children know that one of the best ways we can keep ourselves healthy is washing our hands frequently. For children who can understand this, tell them that germs get on our hands which can make us sick. Washing our hands for 20 seconds can help us get rid of germs and is perhaps one of the best ways we know to keep us safe from contracting the coronavirus.

When can I go back to school?

Even many of the children who were initially excited about having time off from school are likely now wanting to get back into a predictable school routine. Again, it is important to be honest with your children about what you presently know. Let children know that the Governor of Virginia has closed schools for the remainder of the school year in order to prevent the spread of the coronavirus and help keep all residents of Virginia safe. Tell your children that you continue to stay up to date on what is happening at their school and their teachers are working hard to put together lessons for them while school is out. Stay up to date on FCPS's Distance Learning Plan for Continuity of Learning and read any emails you receive directly from your school. 

Why can’t I visit my friends or my grandparents?

Children are understandably upset that they cannot personally visit with friends or relatives. Unfortunately, it is not clear how long this will need to continue. To help children cope with this, it is important to identify how children can maintain contact with relatives and friends through electronic means such as messaging and FaceTime, or even by taking time to write letters if they do not have access to electronic devices. If grandparents live nearby, children may be able to visit them by dropping off groceries or other necessities and waving hello through a window.

Why are my parents home and working instead of playing with me?

Many parents are working remotely at home right now, and if you have young kids, that often means trying to get something done while your child asks why you’re on the phone or computer instead of playing with them. In this situation, it would be a good idea to let your children know that you are home with them to make sure that your family stays healthy and well; however, you still have responsibilities at work. Instead of going to an office somewhere else, you are practicing social distancing by now having your office at home and need to do your work there. It may be a good idea to then let children know when you may be available to take a break and do activities with them; consider actually scheduling those breaks to the extent possible. It may help to have a visual timer so younger children can see when you may become available.

Why does my parent have to go to work instead of staying home with me?

Many parents don’t have the option to work from home right now. If you are unable to work remotely, explain to your child the reasons why your job cannot be performed from home and why it is important that you continue to go to work, both for your family and for the people who are helped by the work that you do. You can also reassure your child that you are taking every precaution while you are at work to make sure you stay as healthy as possible.

Why do I have to take precautions when I am not sick?

Older children may complain about being home and away from peers, and possibly feel a sense of invincibility even as others around them feel scared. It is important for parents to discuss that the coronavirus can spread quickly and that we are taking precautions not only to keep ourselves safe, but all those people around us (such as older adults, people with underlying conditions, or health care workers saving lives) in an effort to help stop this virus. 

How can I help?

For older children, this provides a good opportunity to talk about our civic duty to help others in need. Parents can use this time to teach children that part of our civic duty is helping to take care of people who are vulnerable. We are already doing this through social distancing and there are many other ways to do this such as delivering groceries to an elderly neighbor or donating to support service workers who may be out of work (if a family has the financial means to do so).

This information was adapted from resources provided by UCLA's Center for Mental Health in Schools & Student/Learning Supports.

Healthy Minds would love to hear from you!

Many families are trying their own creative ideas at home to keep children active and engaged. Please consider sharing any of your ideas and they may get posted in a future Healthy Minds blog.

Coronavirus (COVID-19) Update

Get information from FCPS and the Fairfax County Health Department on coronavirus (COVID-19).

What you should know:

How to take care of your child(ren) during the COVID-19 outbreak   |  available in Korean, Chinese, Amharic, and Spanish  

Coping with Stress During Infectious Disease Outbreaks 

Mental Health and Coping During COVID-19

Parent/Caregiver Guide to Helping Families Cope With the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) available in Chinese

When schools are in session, each school has a school counselor, psychologist, and social worker available to provide consultation, mental health services, and/or referrals to community services. While schools are closed, please use this resource to secure mental health service for you or your children.

Healthy Minds is for parents, educators, and community-based providers who are interested in supporting student mental health and wellness. It represents a collaboration between FCPS’ Office of Intervention and Prevention Services and the Fairfax County Government. SUBSCRIBE to Healthy Minds and receive a monthly digest of our most recent articles.