Although we wrote this article early on in the coronavirus pandemic, it might still be helpful for your family as things continue to develop.
Coronavirus is here and it’s all happening very fast. Many parents could use a hand right now, especially when it comes to talking to their children about what is happening.
We have put together some useful tips that will help you talk to your child about Coronavirus.
Everyone is feeling stressed out right now, and that’s normal. In the rush to make sure your child feels safe and calm, we often forget to ask ourselves ‘how am I feeling?’. Children have a knack for telling when we are anxious and this can start to affect them.
- This is only temporary
- Basic hygiene can go a long way (washing hands is easy!)
- You are not alone
Thinking of these things can help us remember what we can control for us and our loved ones. But let’s be honest - we can manage our own anxiety, but we might not be able to hide it, and that might not be the best thing to do. Just remember the grounding points: ‘Yes, I am anxious like you but this is only temporary. If we make sure we wash our hands we and do the things that keep the virus out of our house, we will be doing what we can to help everyone. And remember I am always here for you’.
Reassure them that they are safe
Feeling safe will be important for you and your child. You both might be concerned that they will catch it, or that a friend or family member will. Explain that most people who get sick have mild, flu-like symptoms, which they may have had before. Tell them that there aren’t a lot of cases in kids and, if a child does get it, it tends to be very mild. You can also explain that there are many people out there who are working to protect them (doctors, nurses, teachers, family members).
You can use some of the child-friendly animations at the end of this guide to help reassure yourself and your child.
Most importantly maintaining a daily routine is reassuring and creates a sense of safety, stability and predictability.
Once they’re reassured, encourage them to keep up with their school work and hobbies.
Show them what they can do
By showing your child what they can do, you will help both of you feel like you have the ability to keep yourselves and your family safe.
- Washing hands: by singing their favourite song or nursery rhyme whilst washing their hands, this can become fun! Make washing hands a family routine before every meal and snack, and every time they come into the house. Show them how to use soap, making sure to get in all the nooks and crannies! The World Health Organisation (WHO) has a helpful guide.
- Catching that cough: tell them that they need to start coughing and sneezing into their elbow. This might seem strange at first (kids love to sneeze straight into their hands) so turn it into a fun game. If they remember to cough into their elbow, say “well done, you’re a germ buster!”.
- Healthy habits: tell them that maintaining healthy habits (like sleep, rest, exercise and healthy food) is very important, now and in everyday life!
- Social distancing: this means not seeing or being with people who are most at risk from the disease.This won’t be easy - especially for well-loved grandparents and relatives. Remind them that they are keeping themselves, their family and other people in the community safe - the sorts of thing a superhero would do
Share age-appropriate facts
Your child will inevitably have heard quite a lot about the virus. Their social media feeds will be full of it and their friends are likely to be talking about. Some of that information will be inaccurate and scary. It’s also possible that a classmate or a teacher has been told to ‘self- isolate’, or that their school has shut.
Don’t give them every single update-in fact it is wise to also limit your own news browsing to once or twice a day. However it is important to give our little ones age-appropriate information about the situation. Be honest with them. If you try to hide what is happening from them, their imagination will fill in the blanks, and they will be able to read your anxiety.
Regularly check-in with them, gauge how they are feeling and ask if they have any questions. Be prepared to give some hard answers. These could be ‘what happens if someone dies?’ or ‘could grandpa/ grandma catch it?’. Just make sure to make them feel safe with reassuring language about what we know and what they can do.
Use these resources to help
There are some really great resources online that can help a child understand what the Coronavirus is, and how they can avoid catching it:
- Coronavirus animation by BrainPoP
- ‘Wash Your Hands & Why Do We Get Sick’ video by Storybots (Netflix Jr)
- ‘How Do People Catch A Cold’ video by Storybots (Netflix Jr)
For more information about Covid-19, please visit the NHS website.
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