Telling Kids About Scary Things


Charlie, our almost four year old son, recently asked me why we’re not allowed to see our friends. 

“Have you heard of COVID-19?”

I didn’t actually say that.

This is a moment you tread carefully, because you know that whatever you’re about to say is going to have a lasting impact on his psyche and sense of security.  But you want to be as honest as you can because I believe children pick up on things like sincerity and when your words don’t match your tone, face, and posture. You also want, as any good parent would, to keep their life as normal and grounded as possible in the midst of chaos and crisis.

So, what did I tell Charlie?

I told him that there are just some germs going around, and we need to stay safe from them and be careful until everyone else is healthy and safe, too. I told him that there are just some new rules right now, but they’re no different than having to wash our hands before dinner or leaving our shoes at the front door. 

And, as I tend to do, I explained it to him in Tae Kwon-Do terms. When you’re sparring, if you get punched, it teaches you to block. So, I told him the world just got punched, and now we are learning how to block better. Growing up in Tae Kwon-Do, Charlie totally gets this.

Again, though, Charlie is only about four. With an older child you can be more vivid with the reality of the situation. They understand a little better about what’s going on, so you can talk to them differently. Of course, a parent knows their child best and what they can understand and what will be too much for them. This is why we often parent one child differently than their sibling. It’s not about fairness. It’s about what’s best for their unique process of maturing.

But, no matter the age, you don’t want to take away their sense of hope. (This is true of adults and it’s why it’s healthy to be vigilant about what and whom you allow to influence you.) The phrase “everything is going to be okay” can be powerful for a young person, even if, in the back of your mind, you have concerns. Ultimately, along with those concerns, it’s most helpful to maintain a sense of hope. Because without hope we’re stranded. And history has shown us that things always get better, and we always make it through stronger. This is the posture I recommend taking.

Our kids need us to double down on our commitment to them right now. In this moment, we need to teach our children strength and resilience in the face of crisis. It would be easier to give in to how overwhelming and uncertain everything seems. But, we would be doing our children, and ourselves, a great disservice. 

If we reassure our children that we will take care of them during this crisis, we are also teaching them how to take care of themselves.  Handling it with composure and positivity, and carrying yourself accordingly, especially in their presence, will plant seeds that will grow strong roots. Future challenges will find them, this is certain. They likely won’t be a once-in-a-hundred-years global pandemic. What you do now is preparing them to weather the daily challenges they’ll encounter,  prevailing victoriously. So, some day, they’ll pass that strength and spirit of perseverance on to their children. Which is the best possible outcome that I can imagine.


Master Gorino’s Tae Kwon-Do offers a trial program for individuals and families in Buffalo, NY and the surrounding areas that allows you to get a feel for the different classes, meet our instructors, and experience our dojang. It’s a great way to see if Tae Kwon-Do is right for you. To learn more or to sign up, register online or call (716) 836-KICK (5425) and a member of our team will follow up with you on next steps. We look forward to helping you achieve your goals. Pil-Sung!


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