How To Talk To Kids About The Coronavirus

Friday, May 29th 2020

Judy Maggio chats with children’s author and illustrator Trevor Romain about how to explain the pandemic to young children in a way that both calms their fears and validates their feelings.

Judy Maggio: You know, as we adults try to navigate this new normal, we sometimes overlook young children who really need reassurances and extra love during this time. We have asked author and illustrator Trevor Romain to come talk to us a little bit more about that because you have designed a way to explain this complicated coronavirus in a very simple way to children.

Trevor Romain: Yes, you know, I'm very immature and I'm very simple, so when I decided that I wanted to talk to kids, I decided to speak to them in their own language. Because so often we over complicate things and I decided, "Hey, let me do it as simply as possible and speak to kids in their own language." And that's exactly what I did.

JM: You explain it in such beautiful, interesting ways, as you do a lot of the tough topics that you tackle. What mistakes do you think most adults make when they're trying to have these hard conversations with children, young children especially?

TR: Yeah, I think one of the biggest problems is that we immediately tell somebody, "It's gonna be okay." That doesn't help the kid feel better. That helps you to feel better because you've now dealt with it. But that doesn't help the kid. What we need to do is actually say to them, "Wow, this is a tough time. We are going through a tough time. But, you know what, very few kids have actually died from this disease and the chances are that you're going to get it are maybe not as much as you would expect."

Also, share their own fears and feelings because so often parents are just like, "Well, it's going to be fine." To be able to validate what they're feeling, listen to what they're asking for instead of telling them what we think they need to hear.

JM: I thought that the message of the video resonated with me as an adult. Talk about kind of the overarching message because one of the things I got from it was this is a time to be kind to other people. This is a time to look for the joy that isn't always evident. That's really an adult theme.

TR: Adults find watching somebody paint comforting. So, I decided that kids love the way a picture unfolds in animation, adults are soothed by it, and I thought by putting those two together, we could create a connection for the whole family. That's why I wanted families to watch it together. I wanted kids to be able to look over to their moms or dads or grannies or grandpas, aunties, uncles, whoever they're living with, and say, "Wow, did you know that?" And then the parents say, "Well, no, I learned something too." So it was really designed to be able to be shown and connect families together.

JM: What do you hope that kids and their family members come away with after they see your video?

TR: Well, there are a few things. Number one, there is always hope. That's something that we have to hang onto. And to know that things like this are not permanent. I think what I'm trying to show in the video is that this too will pass. There are seasons that we have, that we go through, and for them to be able to realize, "Wow, we are in a tough time. Here's what I can do to control my own part of the situation. I can wash my hands, I can be careful, I can wear a mask." So that it gives them some control over their own lives instead of them feeling like they don't know what to do or where to go.

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