Talking to Children about COVID-19

A social story by Dr. Shu-Chen “Jenny” Yen Since the outbreak of COVID-19 in 2019, young children around the world may have either experienced trauma (e.g., lock down) from the coronavirus or have been exposed to scary images about the virus through media. It is extremely hard for children to understand why social distancing is…

Published on April 7, 2020


A social story by Dr. Shu-Chen “Jenny” Yen

Since the outbreak of COVID-19 in 2019, young children around the world may have either experienced trauma (e.g., lock down) from the coronavirus or have been exposed to scary images about the virus through media. It is extremely hard for children to understand why social distancing is happening, and why they can’t play with their friends anymore.

This books seeks to 1) reassure the child about their safety, 2) redirect the child’s attention to the positive actions undertaken by medical doctors and others, 3) empower and engage children in helping acts, 4) understand the importance of social distancing.

When a scary thing happens, children need their loved one to reassure them about their safety. Parents need to show more affection toward their children at this difficult time. We want to help children using social media to connect with their friends when they are doing “social distancing.”

Also, we want to empower children to look up to the many heroes and contribute to fighting this pandemic! After all, “taking good care of yourself and not spreading the virus” are heroic acts!

Something Strange Happened in My City

A social story about the coronavirus pandemic for children

By: Dr. Shu-Chen Jenny Yen


This book is for parents, guardians, and educators to help children aged 3-8 understand the coronavirus pandemic.

This can be a scary time for children and they may not understand why they need to stay indoors, or what is going on in the world.

One of the best ways caretakers can help young children cope is by sharing age-appropriate information, reassuring their safety, and learning about the many people working to fight the virus.

Child’s Point of View

Something very strange happened in my city.

I can’t go to school, the park, or my friend’s house to play.

My parents can’t go to work. My grandma can’t go shopping.

The street looks empty.

I wonder where people are.

Everyone on TV is wearing a mask.

Doctors and nurses on TV are wearing strange clothes from head to toe.

Does our city have a fever, Mama?

Is our city sick?

Why does everyone look so sad?

Why do people look angry and upset?

Why don’t I see smiling faces anymore?

Parent’s Response

Yes, my child, our city is sick.

A new virus called COVID-19 that makes humans sick is spreading very quickly around the world!

Unfortunately, our city got the virus too.

Child’s Point of View

Mama, why can’t people just go to the doctor and get a shot and take some medicine?

Parent’s Response

Well, lots of people are sick right now.

All the doctors and nurses are working all day and all night, but still can’t help everyone who needs help.

Scientists are trying to make a shot that can stop the virus, but it takes time.

Child’s Point of View

Will I get sick too, Mama?

Parent’s Response

Well, it is possible that everyone could get sick.

But I know a way to keep you safe!

Child’s Point of View

Wow! What is it? Tell me, tell me…

Parent’s Response

We will try something called “Social Distancing”

It’s like how you stay home from school when you don’t feel good.

We will stay at home so we won’t get the virus. For now, we won’t see other people in person so we don’t spread the virus to other people.

If we need to go out, we will stay away from people who look sick.

We won’t touch things and then touch our face, mouth, and eyes.

We will wash our hands with soap and warm water for more than 20 seconds to wash the virus off our hands.

Child’s Point of View

Wow, I will do that. Will that be enough?

Parent’s Response

Well, my dear, don’t worry! If everyone of us keeps a distance from each other, then the virus won’t spread from person to person.

Also, Mama, Papa, Grandpa, and Grandma will try our best to protect you to make sure the virus can’t reach you!

Plus, you know what?

The scientists also found that children’s immune systems are stronger than adults’ to defent against this new virus!

Child’s Point of View

Wow, so I can beat the virus! Yeah!

But with social distancing, does this mean I can’t play with my friends any more?

Parent’s Response

Yes, you can!

You can call, text, email, and FaceTime your friends.

You can watch movies and videos together online!

Child’s Point of View

Mama, how long do I need to wait to go out to play with my friends?

When will the virus disappear?

Will many people die?

Parent’s Response

My dear child, I just do not know.

BUT every doctor and nurse is trying super hard. They don’t want to give up on any sick person.

Some of them didn’t go home for a couple of days and they can’t see their own kids.

Child’s Point of View

Do the doctors’ kids feel sad because they can’t see their parents?

Parent’s Response

Yes, they are very sad because they don’t get to see their parents every day like you do.

But they would also be so proud of their parents for having the courage to fight the virus and save people’s lives!

Child’s Point of View

Wow, they are so great!

They are my HEROES!

Parent’s Response

There are a lot of heroes who are helping to fight the virus.

Scientists work hard to produce shots.

Delivery men and women deliver food to the people who can’t go out to get food.

Journalists share good information with us on TV and newspapers and online.

There are many people working to keep everyone safe!

Child’s Point of View

Wow, people are AWESOME!

Parent’s Response

Mommy and daddy will donate money to buy masks, gloves, medical suits and more so the doctors and nurses can be safe and protected when they help patients.

Child’s Point of view

What Can I do to help?

Parent’s Response

What do you think?

Child’s Point of View

I can donate my money from my piggy pank.

I can draw pictures and write letters to adults who are helping.

I can share my toys and storybooks with kids who need them.

Parent’s Response

What a good idea! It is so nice of you, my child!

Let’s lend a helping hand to kids who need help!

This is a battle where everyone in the world is fighting together!

“Keeping yourself healthy and not spreading the virus are the best ways to help fight this pandemic!”

Child’s Point of View

Okay, I will wash my hands, stay in the house, and do things online!

By staying in, we won’t need to go to the hospital, so all the doctors and nurses can take care of the people who are sick.

Parent’s Response

Let’s all help to fight the virus together by practicing “social distancing!”

Child’s Point of View

“Okay, see you on FaceTime, Mama!”

Download a printable version of this social story here.

Copyright @2020 by Shu-Chen Yen. All rights reserved.

This social Story was written by and used with permission from Dr. Shu-Chen “Jenny” Yen, an associate professor in the Department of Child & Adolescent Studies at California State University.