It is likely that most children will have heard about coronavirus and noticed the changes going on around them.
Some of the changes, like people wearing face masks, seeing depleted supermarket shelves or schools closing, can be scary for children. Trusted adults in a child’s life play an important role in helping them make sense of what they hear in a way that is honest, accurate and minimises fear and anxiety. Here is some advice on how to talk to children about coronavirus and ways of supporting them during this time.
- Do not be afraid to discuss the coronavirus with your children. Children tend to worry more when they are aware that there is something that is being kept from them and which is not open to discussion. If they are around when the news is on at home or are overhearing other people talking about what’s going on, it’s likely they are picking up lots and lots of information, which may feel scary and overwhelming for them. Your goal is to help your children feel informed and get fact-based information that is likely more reassuring than whatever they’re hearing from their friends or on the news.
- Find out what your child already knows and ask them questions appropriate to their stage of development. For example, for younger children you could ask “Have you heard grownups talking about a new bug that’s going round?” Invite them to tell you what they know about the situation and to ask you questions that they want to know themselves. You could say, “I’m sure you’ve noticed things are different around here at the moment. Do you have any questions?”.
- The British Psychological Society advises that it is important to be as truthful and honest as possible when speaking to children about coronavirus, but try to remember your child’s age. Give them factual information but adjust the amount and detail to fit their age. For example, you could say “We don’t have a vaccination for coronavirus yet, but doctors are working very hard on it”, or, “A lot of people might get sick, but for most people, it’s like a cold or the flu and they get better.”
- Follow your child’s lead. Some may want to spend time talking. But if your child doesn’t seem interested or doesn’t ask a lot of questions, that’s OK. You can continue checking in on how they are feeling periodically or if you notice any changes in behaviour.
- Try to manage your own worries, and identify adults that you can talk to if you need support about your own anxiety.
- Allow your child space to share their worries and fears. Recognise and normalise their feelings as much as possible. For example, you could say “I understand that all these changes are making you feel worried. It’s OK to feel worried when everything seems different. I’m so pleased you have let me know how you’re feeling.”
- An important way to reassure children is to focus on what you’re doing to stay safe and healthy i.e. hand washing, taking once daily exercise, creating a new routine at home etc. This is empowering for children because it gives them tools and knowledge to help keep themselves and others safe, and something that they can focus on. You can also try joining them in activities, like exercising together. We love www.ourparks.org.uk Superhero Fitness, every weekday at 3.30pm and PE with Joe @thebodycoach, every weekday at 9am.
- Demonstrate that you are able to tolerate the uncertainty of the situation, and encourage them to continue talking with you on a regular basis. For example, you could say; “I don’t have all the answers to everything right now, but once we know more, I will let you know.”
- Here is an excellent guide which can be used with children under the age of 7, to help them understand about coronavirus and to generate a supportive conversation about their feelings. https://www.mindheart.co/descargables