Wellbeing - Talking to your children about Coronavirus

Talking to Children/Young people about Coronavirus (COVID-19 )

The news of coronavirus is everywhere, on the news, on the social media and in our daily lives. We may not be sure on how to bring up the conversation about COVID-19 without making children feel more worried than they might already be. Even if your child is not directly affected by COVID-19, they might become worried, distressed and anxious about the coronavirus. Every child manages with distress or anxiety differently, some children may want to talk about their worries, some of them reflect their emotions through behaviour or play and some of them might internalise their worries and become quiet and withdrawn.

In most cases parents should not avoid talking about this situation as not talking about things can actually make the worry greater for some children. As a parent your aim is assisting your child/children to make sense of what is happening by talking to them about the facts. First of all, you may consider limiting your child’s exposure to media. Before starting the conversation with your child, check in with yourself by asking the below questions:

  • ‘Am I ready to talk about it?’,
  • ‘Do I have enough information?’,
  • ‘Do I have worries or anxieties about the virus?’.

If you are feeling anxious, take some time to calm down before answering your child’s questions. It’s okay if you can’t answer everything; being available to your child is what matters.

Choosing the right moment is also important while having a conversation with your child. Try to choose a time when you won’t be interrupted, for example a drive, a walk or a shared activity. To provide safe space for your child, open the conversation gently through asking the questions below:

  • ‘Have you heard anything about coronavirus?’
  • ‘What have you heard about it?
  • ‘How are you feeling about it?’

This will give you an idea about what your child knows and how they are interpreting what is happening. You can underline that it is okay to have feelings about the virus and you want to talk about their feelings.

As much as possible give your child space to talk and encourage them to ask questions to make sense about what is happening. When answering the questions as much as possible:

  • Be honest,
  • Make it simple and clear,
  • Stick to the facts but not oversharing the details or statistics,
  • Give perspective, where possible.

 

 

Hearing about the coronavirus on the news might make children feel they will catch the virus so the conversation with your child could be a great chance to correct any misconceptions, and also to explain the seriousness of the facts, and to reassure your child through discussing and validating their feelings.

 

Another significant way to reassure your child is to explain what you are doing to stay safe. You can explain that coronavirus is transmitted mostly by coughing and touching surfaces so washing hands play vital role to take care of themselves. As a result, you can remind them washing their hands with soap and water for 20 seconds (or the length of two “Happy Birthday” songs) when they come in from outside, before they eat, and after blowing their nose, coughing, sneezing or using the bathroom.

Encourage your child to ask questions and emphasize that you will keep them updated as you learn more. Sticking to your child’s daily routine like structured days with regular mealtimes and bedtimes are vital for your child’s emotional wellbeing. Also, please do not forget to check in with yourself and how you are feeling and use these tips to manage your own physical and emotional wellbeing.

After the conversation with your child keep eye on for any signs that your child might has, if you have any concerns about your child’s mood or behaviour, make an appointment with your school counsellor (wellbeingservices@pulteney.sa.edu.au) or your GP.

Finally, the following link is provided by School TV for a presentation by renowned child and adolescent psychologist Dr Michael Carr-Gregg offering some thoughts on discussing the current public health emergency with children: https://schooltv.me/wellbeing_news/special-report- coronavirus.

Steve McCulloch

Head of Student Wellbeing