The crisis of COVID-19 that has engulfed adult lives for the past few weeks has frightened and confused children too. As they hear you and teachers repeatedly stressing the need to maintain personal hygiene and hear or read of new cases they are likely to be bothered by many questions and fears.
As Mums & Dads we need to allay their fears and dispel their worries by educating them in the best way possible.
Children’s natural curiosity is an opportunity, and a window for you (and even grandparents) to ‘Talk & Teach’ and guide your children and help them navigate this crisis together, so that their fears, misunderstandings and uncertainty is replaced with information, understanding and preventive action.
Talking to children about the spreading virus is tricky.
On the one hand, you want them to practice good respiratory hygiene — by coughing into their sleeve, using tissues, and regular hand washing,
On the other hand, you want to be careful not to create too much anxiety.
It’s important to let your children know that there have been very few cases of the virus reported domestically.
For children of all ages, it’s important for parents to reassure their children that the situation is under control.
It’s also helpful for parents to explain that children in other countries aren’t being seriously affected by the disease.
If anything, what we’re seeing is that children are not getting sick as severely as older adults -that’s a piece of good news.
The key is to keep the discussion positive.
Just change your language around it, so it’s not based in fear – say things like ‘This is how we keep healthy and stay safe.’
Limit the News & watch the way you talk about the outbreak
Wait until you are calm before talking to your kids about the virus. Children pick up on our tone of voice, body language and facial expressions.
The information you decide to withhold from your kids is as important as what you tell them.
Ask them what they know as school playgrounds & social media could mean they’ve got the wrong end of the stick ! Reassure, inform & be sensible.
Let your child know that adults in authority are working to contain the virus, find a vaccine, and inform the public about specific instructions or health emergencies.
Making sure children and teens feel safe, is the ultimate goal in the conversation so that children don’t spend time ‘ catastrophising’ about what might happen. Teens, especially, may get fixated on the news.
Be age & stage appropriate & aim to keep things business as usual.
Tiny Stubbs & I have written an ebook called ‘Ant I Viral & The Virus’ It’s available here – all proceeds go to the NHS.
It will help you ‘talk & teach’ your kids about the importance of washing their hands & give you tips as parents about the way to handle the pandemic without frightening your children.