We all know that children will be picking up information about the current coronavirus crisis which has meant big changes for them.
Young children will pick up clues from the behaviour of those around them in their expressions, tone of voice, and conversations on the phone. Even when we think they are not listening, or they might not understand, our conversations will give them information about what is going on. Older children might have more direct access through TV news reports, social media and through what their friends are telling them.
It is important that children are in the loop and receive thoughtful explanations and answers to their questions from their parents, so that they don’t jump to wrong conclusions or get overly anxious about stories that may not be true.
So how do we talk to our children about the Coronavirus?
Here are some tips which might be helpful:
*Talk in a calm voice and in a straightforward way giving them space to ask direct and difficult questions. Tone of voice is important for children as they can easily pick up on our feelings such as anxiety or agitation by the way we speak to them. This will be reassuring for them. Move onto something more every day to talk about at the end of the conversation.
*Tell children the facts that there is a virus which is making some people ill, a few people very ill and some very sick people can die because of it. Most people do not have to go to hospital, but our bodies are less good at fighting diseases when we are old. Not many children get it, but we can catch it from each other. Make sure that older children are not picking up myths or misinformation from social media or friends.
*Give children practical information on how to prevent catching the virus. Help them feel in control and keep this light and fun. Help children understand why they have to stay at home and help prevent the spread of the virus.
*Reassure children by sharing positive stories of people who have recovered. Reassure them that scientists and doctors are working really hard to help fight this new disease.
*Limit news bulletins as over exposure to news without proper explanation for children will make them anxious.
*Engage with difficult questions especially for older children as they are more capable of handling complex issues. Be honest if you don’t know the answer. Reassure them that there are some things that are not known yet, but people are working hard to find these things out for us.
*If a relative or family friend is seriously ill. In this situation you will need to be honest and prepare them. Remember children read body language and observe the stress of adults. Keep them up to date and acknowledge worries and stresses without overwhelming them with disturbing detail. Help them express their feelings with you by using drawing and writing. Make sure that you can talk to someone for your own support, so that you are able to support and hold your child’s worries with them.
Use the following resources for talking about Coronavirus with your children.
For younger primary age children:
COVIBOOK – Supporting and reassuring children around the world
For older children:
BBC Newsround: Coronavirus