Talking to Children About Coronavirus


“I sure could use a hug right now.” How many of us have said those words before? Having a bad day, feeling sad, feeling stressed — a hug can often be the best remedy. For a child with special needs, a hug is often the primary way for them to communicate affection for someone or to simply feel connected to the people they love. What do you do when everyone is being told to exercise social distancing?

I am the mom of a wonderful, kind and very affectionate child with special needs. One of the things most beloved about my son is his exuberance in giving out hugs. He doesn’t hold back. When you are lucky enough to be on the receiving end of one of them, it just brightens your entire day. As we navigate through the next few weeks or months, it’s going to be a challenge to balance my child’s need to stay connected with friends and family, but also remain safe.

I’d like to share some tips on how I’m managing social distancing with my son.

  1. He’s old enough to have a basic understanding of what is going on. Explain to your children what is happening in terms they can understand.
  2. In order to take the “scary” out of this for my son, we have turned it into a game. We have a five-step process that we use as a quiz – he thinks it’s great to run through the steps. If you can figure out how to sing along to the melody of a favorite song, even better!
    • Step one: Coronavirus can make you sick.
    • Step two: Getting sick is no fun.
    • Step three: Coronavirus can get on your hands.
    • Step four: Wash your hands a lot to get the germs off.
    • Step five: Repeat steps one through four throughout the day.
  1. I don’t know if you know this, but we live in the age of technology. Use it! Phone calls are a great way to connect with friends and loved ones. When your child really needs to see someone’s face, use things like Facetime or Skype.
  2. At this point, we have not been told to shelter in place, so if it’s safe to still see people…just at a distance. And while my son can’t give out one of his awesome hugs, he can continue to show people that he loves them. He can give an “air five,” the sign for “I love you” or a simple wave. But what we have chosen to do is hark back to the ’60s and give people a good old peace sign. It not only shows our friends that we acknowledge them but that we are also wishing them peace and love. How great is that?
  3. Finally, while my son can’t go out and hug all his friends, he can hug to his heart’s content at home…. after going through the all-important five-step process, of course!

How are all of you managing to keep your kids feeling connected when they can’t give out hugs? We’d love to hear from you.

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