Back to Top Skip to main content

Talking to children about COVID-19 helps them feel safe and secure

mage of a mom and two kids sitting on house steps Kellie Artis at her home near Fort Bragg, North Carolina, with Rhys and Hannah. (Photo courtesy Avery Lynn Photography)

Recommended Content:


Military spouse Kellie Artis talked with her children about COVID-19 and how to stop the highly contagious respiratory illness from spreading. Afterward, they seemed untroubled. Ten-year-old Hannah and 8-year-old Rhys stopped asking to have friends over, and to visit the playground across the street from their home near Fort Bragg, North Carolina. They didn't complain about the restrictions during video chats with their dad, a Special Forces officer who's deployed overseas.

But then one night, Artis heard Rhys crying in his bedroom. When she asked him what was wrong, he sobbed, "I don't like the coronavirus!" He'd overheard his mom talking on the phone with another military spouse. They were discussing further measures that might be enacted. Artis had used the word "lockdown," and the term had scared Rhys.

"They're owed an explanation" about why their lives have changed so unexpectedly, Artis said. "But I'm trying to balance shielding them from too much information while also making sure they're safe."

Now more than ever, open communication is critical to helping children of all ages feel safe and secure, said Dr. Stephen Cozza. The retired Army colonel is also senior scientist at Uniformed Services University's Center for the Study of Traumatic Stress, or CSTS.

But it can be difficult talking with children about COVID-19, Cozza said. The situation changes from day to day, and parents themselves are trying to keep up.

"We want to share," said Cozza, who's also a psychiatry professor at USU. "But at the same time, we want to protect our kids and not worry them. When we can stay calm and clear with our children, it helps them to remain calm and better understand what's happening."

In uncertain times, children in military families may have advantages, Cozza said. They include a strong sense of community – "we're all in this together" – and pride that their family members are counted as helpers who sustain the well-being of the country.

But military kids also may feel a responsibility greater than their years, Cozza said, particularly if their parent is deployed. Dealing with a pandemic can be an "added challenge for families as well as children."

Cozza said parents should offer age-appropriate messages to explain what's happening. So for younger kids, he said, it can be something as simple as, “Coronavirus is a new germ. Germs can spread from one person to another and make them sick. That's why we wash our hands.”

Artis said she described maintaining 6-foot physical distance to her kids as "keeping llama space." They'd recently seen the animals up close at a birthday party, and could easily picture the length of one.

She also told her kids about people planting victory gardens during World War II as a way to support the soldiers fighting overseas.

"I explained that they did their part, and now it's time to do our part," she said. "We can't see what we're fighting, but it still matters. And I told them we're doing it here for other kids' grandmas and grandpas, just like the people in Grandma and Grandpa's neighborhood are doing it for them."

Cozza said that with older kids, who may be getting inaccurate information on social media, "We need to help them understand what they see and hear. So maybe you start the conversation with, 'What have you heard about COVID-19, and what questions do you have?'"

He added that children of all ages should be assured that while COVID-19 is serious, there's no need to panic. Also, most people who do get sick will get better. And it's OK to express fears and ask questions.

Still, doing everything right doesn't mean there won't be a hiccup or two, as Artis learned.

"I certainly go through waves of anxiety," she said.  "But I think we've adapted pretty easily – especially with the idea of not having an end date because that's how a lot of military families live our lives. There seems to never be an end date."

Cozza advises parents to be empathetic while still enforcing expectations. "You can say something like, 'I know this is a really tough time, and you miss our friends. But I really do need your help. And we're going to work together to get through this.'"

The CSTS has produced two fact sheets for parents: "Discussing Coronavirus with Your Children" and "Finding the Right Words to Talk with Children and Teens About Coronavirus."

Other resources related to COVID-19 can be found on the CSTS website.

You also may be interested in...

Forging of civil-military anvil against COVID-19 focus at GHSA

U.S. and Thai soldiers stand together during a medical exercise.

“Defense partnerships around the world are key.”

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus | Global Health Engagement | Health Readiness | Global Health Engagement

BAMC, Argentine Army medical providers share COVID-19 best practices

Video teleconference image

U.S. Army South facilitated the virtual subject matter expert (SME) exchange between BAMC and CMMH.

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus | Global Health Engagement | Technology | COVID-19 Vaccine Efforts | Public Health | Convalescent Plasma Collection Program

NMCP unveils new COVID-19 testing system

A group of military health personnel, wearing masks, in front of a large machine with a red ribbon in front of it.

Each Panther system can provide initial results in approximately four hours.

Recommended Content:


Military nurses hold virtual research & evidence-based practice course

Two nurses, wearing masks, examining a mannequin

Due to the COVID-19 national emergency, the three-day in-person course was abbreviated to a one-day virtual.

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus | Public Health | Combat Support | Research and Innovation

‘Virtual Ward’ pilot program to reduce hospital stay time

Man's arm with blood pressure cuff and fingertip pulse oximeter

"The idea is that instead of staying in hospital longer..., patients are released early and can recover in the comfort and privacy of their homes."

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness | Technology | Coronavirus | Public Health

COVID-19 amplifies importance of Trusted Care culture

Image of soldier holding up a badge that says "Trusted Care."

The goal is to create a team of innovators focused on patient safety.

Recommended Content:


JBLM hosts vital blood drive during COVID-19

Soldier giving blood

To maintain social distancing requirements, all blood drives are by appointment only.

Recommended Content:

Armed Services Blood Program | Public Health | Coronavirus

WRNMMC expands innovation and opens new, permanent drive-thru pharmacy

Military pharmacist, wearing a mask, looking at bags of prescriptions

The new Prescription Drive-Thru Pick-up will operate similarly as the curbside pharmacy pick-up.

Recommended Content:

Research and Innovation | Combat Support | Public Health | Coronavirus | Health Literacy Month 2020

Fort Irwin DENTAC strives to reach readiness perfection

Image of patient getting a dental exam

To accommodate an entire installation, the dental clinic extended its hours.

Recommended Content:

Public Health | Coronavirus | MHS GENESIS | Combat Support

Specialized robots used to disinfect NH TwentyninePalms

Hospital personnel standing with a cleaning robot

The robotic units are designed to complement manual cleaning.

Recommended Content:

Public Health | Coronavirus

Navy pharmacy techs support COVID-19 and MHS GENESIS efforts

Navy personnel in a pharmacy

Hospital Corpsman 1st Class Aaron Souders is highlighted for his work as a Navy pharmacy technician.

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus | MHS GENESIS | Combat Support

Navy tele-health supports Guam civilian hospital during COVID-19

Woman sitting in front of several computer monitors

[T]his is the first-ever DoD tasking for telemedicine support in response to a request from civil authorities for aid.

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus | Combat Support | Global Health Engagement

Navy unit provided COVID-19 support to Peruvian First Responders

Fireman getting COVID test in firehouse garage

The province of Callao has the second highest number of COVID-19 cases in Peru.

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus | Global Health Engagement

DHA Director outlines how MHS standardization bolsters reform

Two soldiers in masks, talking

How COVID-19 repositioned the best laid plans of the DoD.

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus | Joint Health Information Exchange | MHS GENESIS | MHS Transformation

Annual flu vaccine remains a health priority during COVID-19 era

Military personnel getting flu shot

Annual vaccine is a covered TRICARE benefit.

Recommended Content:

Immunization Healthcare | Vaccine-Preventable Diseases | Public Health | Coronavirus
<< < ... 6 7 8 9 10  ... > >> 
Showing results 76 - 90 Page 6 of 20

DHA Address: 7700 Arlington Boulevard | Suite 5101 | Falls Church, VA | 22042-5101

Some documents are presented in Portable Document Format (PDF). A PDF reader is required for viewing. Download a PDF Reader or learn more about PDFs.