COVID-19: Parenting During the Outbreak


Protecting your child from the virus

Many parents are asking, "What are the best ways to protect my child from the virus?" Here are the most powerful steps you can take to protect yourself and your family.

  • Wash hands well and often.

    Everyone in your household needs to do this.

    • Wash your hands well with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If you can't use soap and water, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
    • Wash your hands after you use the bathroom, before you make or eat food, and after you cough, sneeze, or blow your nose. If you leave your home, wash your hands as soon as you return.
  • Practice social distancing.

    Social distancing means putting space—at least 6 feet (2 meters)—between you and other people. And avoid contact with others as much as you can. This may be tough with kids, but it's so important to help prevent the spread of the virus.

    • Keep your child at home as much as possible. Don't let your child go to other homes for visits or playdates.
    • Avoid crowded places like indoor play places.
    • Avoid having visitors to your home. Help your child connect to friends and family by phone or computer. If you have to have visitors, they need to wear a mask and stay at least 6 feet (2 meters) away from you and your child. And keep the visit as short as possible.
    • Increase airflow in your home if people visit. This can help reduce the amount of virus particles (droplets) that travel through the air. If you can, open some windows or doors to the outside. Use a fan to blow air away from people and out a window. Turn on exhaust fans in your kitchen and bathroom.
    • Help your child stay active in safe ways. Walk or ride bikes with your child. Look for games that encourage indoor activity. Or turn on music and have a dance party.
  • Wear masks.

    Have older children wear a mask if they have to go with you to public places like the grocery store or pharmacy. Children under 2 years of age should not wear a mask.

  • Get family members vaccinated when it's available to them.

Talking to your child about the virus

This may be an upsetting time for children. They may wonder why people are staying home and why they can't go to school or play with friends. You can help them understand what's going on and help them feel safe. Here are some tips for how to talk to children about the COVID-19 outbreak.

  • Give them the facts.

    Keep the information simple and reassuring. Gear the information to your child's age. Here are some basics you could share:

    • Viruses are germs that can make people sick. Right now there's a new virus going around. It's called COVID-19. That's short for "coronavirus 2019."
    • This virus is making a lot of people sick. Many of them probably won't feel too bad. But some people do get very sick. That's why we need to be careful. We don't want to get sick, and we don't want to make other people sick.
    • Experts are studying the virus and learning more every day. That's why things are changing, like whether schools are closed. It may be confusing, but those changes are meant to help us stay safe.
  • Teach them what they can do.

    Everyone can help prevent the spread of germs. These are great habits to have all the time. And taking action can help kids feel more in control. Teach your child these things:

    • Wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
    • Wash your hands after you use the bathroom, before you eat or make food, and after you cough, sneeze, or blow your nose.
    • Cough and sneeze into your elbow or a tissue. Put the tissue in the trash right away. Then wash your hands.
    • Keep your hands away from your eyes, nose, and mouth. That helps keep germs out of your body.
  • Stay calm.
    • Your child will follow your lead. If you're calm, your child is more likely to be calm. If you're anxious, your child may feel that way too. Take good care of yourself, and focus on the positive steps you can take to be safe.
    • Limit how much time your child spends watching TV or on social media. Kids may see or hear things that cause them to worry. The same goes for you: Too much media about the virus may make you feel anxious.
  • Keep talking and listening.

    As they adjust to these changes, kids may need more love and attention.

    • Make time to listen. Encourage your child to talk about any concerns or fears they have. This gives you a chance to correct rumors or false information they may have heard.
    • Let them know you are available to answer their questions. This can help them feel safe and secure.

Related Information


Current as of: March 26, 2021

Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:
Heather Quinn MD - Family Medicine
Lesley Ryan MD - Family Medicine