Norway’s prime minister held a 30-minute press conference to help kids process coronavirus

Kids presser.
Kids presser.
Image: NTB Scanpix/Lise Aserud via REUTERS
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Coronavirus is scary for everyone, including kids. Norway’s prime minister, Erna Solberg, tried to help ease those fears by holding a 30-minute press conference for kids. She used the opportunity to explain that everyone who could stay home should, and that adults who are healthy don’t usually become very ill from the virus.

Life, she acknowledged, had become very different. “I know that for many children this is scary,” she said. “It is ok to be scared when so many things happen at the same time.”

Norway has invoked emergency powers, closed its borders, and shut down many public and private institutions including schools and kindergartens. As of this writing, 1,442 people in the country have tested positive for Covid-19.

In speaking to children, Solberg didn’t simplify her language or talk down to her audience; rather, she addressed them as the curious and concerned people they are.

As is often the case with kids, the questions were direct and smart. “How long will it take to develop a vaccine?” asked one. (Answer: About a year, maybe less, but scientists are also working on medicine.) “Why am I not allowed to celebrate my birthday?” (Answer: It’s time to get creative and celebrate on FaceTime—Solberg also suggested everyone in the class should call and sing individually). “Would schools really only be closed for two weeks or would it be longer?” (Answer: We don’t know; it could be longer).

A role model for parents

We need to all make way for our kids to ask questions,  and Solberg is showing how. For one, she’s taking their questions seriously, and creating time and space to answer them. She’s acknowledging how they might be feeling—scared—and validating that. Her ministers for education and for family and children joined her, signaling to the kids that she was prepared while relying on others for support.

Most parents know that kids ask the best questions—and that they often come at the oddest moments. “How was school?” rarely elicits a play-by-play of the day, let alone any questions about how the parent’s day might have been, or about anything else. But then at bedtime, with the lights out, and you walking out the door, a fascinating line of inquiry begins.

Perhaps an upside of families being home together more is that there are more serendipitous moments now for those questions to be asked and answered.