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March 5, 2020
by Amy Rollo

How to Talk to Your Child About COVID-19

March 5, 2020 08:47 by Amy Rollo  [About the Author]


A pocket full of posies

A tissue, a tissue
We all fall down

The king has sent his daughter
To fetch a pail of water
A tissue, a tissue
We all fall down

The robin on the steeple
Is singing to the people
A tissue, a tissue
We all fall down


The wedding bells are ringing
The boys and girls are singing
A tissue, a tissue
We all fall down


 We all sang this nursey rhyme as a child and laughed and played. As you read the lyrics, you likely had a pleasant feeling rush through you, as it brought you back to your youth. Despite the fond feelings associated with this nursery rhyme, many believe that it actually has a darker origin. According to one theory, the nursery rhyme allowed children to process and understand what was going on during a deadly plague that swept through Europe after the World War II. The “ring-a-round the rosie” referred to a circular rash that occurred with the plague. The “ashes” and “falling down” represented death. Plague and death is hard for even adults to understand, it makes sense that children would have an even harder time. One thing to keep in mind is that children process and cope with their emotions through play. The nursery rhyme teaches us many things when we consider how to talk to our children about what is going on. It teaches us that we need to talk to them in a way they can understand, that we need to be truthful and not fearful in our communication, and we need to continue to value our child’s need for play in order to help cope with their emotions. Play is the natural language of a child, so when play is removed, their ability to communicate their feelings is reduced. Read more about how to talk about the COVID-19 virus below.


While the COVID-19 virus will not have the same impact as the plague, there are things we can learn from the nursery rhyme. Many children are listening to the news, they are hearing people talk about the “scary Corona virus” and maybe even hearing that we can die from it. These things can increase anxiety for children (and adults). Parents need to initiate the conversation with their children and be direct in order to reduce the anxiety and fear.


This nursery rhyme was meant to make something incredibly scary, less scary for children during the plague. The same can be applied with today’s new viruses that emerge. By educating your child on COVID-19, you are making the virus less scary for your child. Let your child know that the COVID-19 virus is very similar to other viruses, as well as the common cold. Educate them that most children show very few symptoms and do not feel very sick when they get it. By educating them on the symptoms and the nature of the virus, it suddenly seems less scary for them.


The next thing you can talk to your child about is how can we stop the spread of the virus. By teaching your child how to stop the spread of the virus, you allow your child to feel more in control and less helpless. Teach your child how washing hands thoroughly and frequently can help stop the spread of any virus. Let them know if they feel sick to stay home and rest to stop the spread. Teach your child that if they need to cough, to cough into their sleeve. While they shouldn’t be scared of anyone sick, it is okay to distance yourself from someone coughing to avoid any illness. This information empowers your child to learn how to protect themselves and takes away the anxiety of feeling helpless from the virus.


The next thing you can do as a parent is to allow your child to continue to have fun. This nursery rhyme is the perfect example that no matter how “bad” things get, it is a child’s job to play and have fun. While certain measures should be taken to protect against the virus, life should continue. Allow your child out of the house, enjoy play time, and do not show significant anxiety that you may be feeling to your child. Children can pick up on feelings of others. Let your child know they are safe to have fun and live their life.


The number one thing a child needs to know is they are safe and protected. Have open conversations, allow your child to ask questions, and try not to spread unnecessary fear. Times like this require caution, not fear. Make sure to not have the news on too much and to keep as much of a routine as possible. When all else fails, wash your hands.

About the Author

Amy Rollo (old) Amy Rollo (old), M.A., LPA, LSSP, LPC-S

Amy Rollo is a triple licensed mental health provider in Houston, Texas. She is the owner of a large group practice in Houston, Texas, Heights Family Counseling. Heights Family Counseling is a boutique practice that works with young children, adolescents, teens, adults, couples, and families and understands the unique challenges of each stage of life.

Office Location:
2500 Summer Street #1220
Houston, Texas
United States
Phone: 713.380.1151
Contact Amy Rollo (old)

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