As parents, most of us like to believe we’ve shielded our children from the “bad news”. We think minimizing television news viewing and filtering what the children see online is enough, but the reality is, kids know there’s something going on. Their lives have been uprooted too. Instead of letting them go about their day with limited knowledge or confusing information, sit them down for an honest conversation that’s age-appropriate.

First, do a little digging to find out what they already know or what they think they know. Assess where they are and how they are coping with the information they have. For younger children, ask them if they have questions. Give them a safe space to discuss whatever is on their minds. Not that you shouldn’t do that with older children, but they tend to be more vocal about their thoughts. Younger children may not know it’s okay to ask.

Follow your child’s (of any age) lead. Go where they go. If they don’t engage, don’t push. Know this conversation may take time, and that’s okay.

Be honest. Without getting political, tell them proven facts, not hyperbole or wishful thinking. Give them nothing but pure honesty. Don’t give unnecessary details. The idea isn’t to frighten them but to arm them with age-appropriate facts.

Provide comfort. These are trying times for people of every age.

Don’t pretend to have all the answers. If your child should ask a question you don’t have an answer for, tell them or look for reputable sights or sources to find the information. Understand that the pandemic is fluid. Experts don’t have all the answers—information changes from day-to-day. Tell your child that. Explain how important it is to stay up-to-date and looking at and analyzing facts.

Provide comfort. We’re all experiencing anxiety, stress, and in some instances, depression. Don’t make empty promises or paint a rosy picture but do validate their feelings and acknowledge your own. Provide opportunities to lift their spirits, whether that be through exercise, fun family challenges, music, movie nights, game nights, time outdoors, or all of the above. Give children what they need.

Give kids things they can control in this world that feels so out of control. If you don’t have a chore chart, ask them to help you make one. Make them responsible for something and give them the tools to succeed. Teach them the importance of washing their hands to prevent the spread of infection. Teach them how to disinfect surfaces properly. Have them help you make face masks. Give them something “important” to do. It will help them feel in control of some aspect of this shared chaos.