Talking to Children about COVID-19: a conversation with bestselling author Dr. Wendy Mogel

Interview by Aron Hirt-Manheimer

Wendy Mogel, PhD, is a practicing social-clinical psychologist and the author of New York Times bestsellers The Blessing of a Skinned Knee and The Blessing of a B Minus, both about raising resilient children, as well as Voice Lessons for Parents: What to Say, How to Say it, and When to Listen?

I sat down with Dr. Mogel (virtually, of course) to get some guidance on how families with small children can make the best of their at-home time together.

Aron Hirt-Manheimer: Let’s try to start on a positive note: What, if any, might be the silver lining of having schoolchildren home for an extended period of time?

Dr. Wendy Mogel: In the midst of this health crisis, the good news is that it’s providing many parents with the opportunity to take time to sit and listen to children's questions, think about the answers, and respond with curiosity and respect.

This practice can set a pattern of parents being attentive, receptive, and captivated by what the children are asking – which sure beats what I call “pester-pong,” the pattern of parents pestering kids and kids pestering parents!

This is a scary time for us all. What can parents do to comfort and reassure their children?

Panicked parents expose children to their fear, to “emotional contagion.”

One fix is to follow the potent 12-step program strategy of acting as though you have courage, even when you’re feeling scared and vulnerable. In conversations about tricky topics, the melody is more important than the lyrics: A calm tone is more important then getting every single word right.

We can also frame this crisis for children by telling them that they are living through an important time in history. Terrifying events become tales of resilience in children’s books, such as the thrilling “I Survived” series: the sinking of the Titanic, Hurricane Katrina, the attacks of Septe