Wondering how to discuss coronavirus with your kids? With all the news coverage about coronavirus, your kids are likely aware of this outbreak. They might have heard things at the school playground or on social media for older kids, some of which is misleading or false and plain right scary. There are many parents and caregivers (us included) who are wondering how to discuss the Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak with their kids in a reassuring way that doesn’t create more anxiety. Here are some tips to talk about coronavirus with your kids.
Choose an appropriate time
Don’t choose a time when kids are tired or distracted by school or extracurricular activities. This can make the conversation even more difficult and create more stress for you and your children. Avoid conversations before bed as it can create additional anxiety and/or nightmares for kids.
Find out what your child already knows
For kids in school, it’s likely that they are hearing about the coronavirus spread. Find out what they know and assess how they are feeling about it. Make sure they are getting facts. There can be a lot of myths and misinformation that kids pick up on the school playground or on social media. Be prepared for questions about coronavirus. And if you don’t know the answer to the question, admit it and if they’re old enough research it together.
Provide age-appropriate content for kids
If you do want to inform them about coronavirus, choose content that explains the infection in a fact-based, easy to understand manner. The World Health Organisation website has a Q&A about coronavirus which answers lots of questions that kids might have. BTN (Behind the News), an Australian news program aimed at school-aged children (8–13 years of age) has put together an age-appropriate video called COVID-19 (aka Coronavirus) Explained. The Operation Ouch doctors, Dr Chris and Dr Xand have put together an informative Q&A for kids about coronavirus. Brainpop, an American educational website for kids has put together an animated video about coronavirus also. If kids prefer comics, NPR Education reporter has put together a comic zine about coronavirus that kids can print and fold or just view online.
Explain about the news coverage
Lynn Jenkins, a local clinical psychologist at Life Matters and author of the Lessons of a LAC book series advises parents to explain why coronavirus is dominating the news. “Explain that lots of people are telling everyone what to do so that it doesn’t spread too far. It is their job and they are specially trained to do it.”
Reassure children about the coronavirus outbreak. Explain to them that According to the World Health Organisation, illness due to COVID-19 infection is generally mild, especially for children and young adults. For some though (like the common flu), it can cause serious requiring hospital care. It is therefore quite normal for people to worry about how the COVID-19 outbreak will affect them and their loved ones. But focus on how here in Australia, we have world-class hospital and resources to help those who need it. Lynn advises that “parents should be aware of their tone and words they are using. Keeping it very ‘matter of fact’ is best.
Limit the news
Lynn also suggests limiting kids’ exposure to news. She notes, “the main reason kids will get anxious about the coronavirus is by scary stories. So limit exposure to news reports because the media tends to follow the principle of ‘If it bleeds, it leads” so stories will be perhaps overfocused on it.”
Reinforce normal hygiene practices
Talk to kids about the things that they can control like practising good hygiene. Explain that washing hands often is considered the primary way to stay healthy. Promote healthy hygiene by encouraging everyone to wash their hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Get kids to sing Happy Birthday twice while they wash their hands to make sure they are washing them for long enough. Ensure family members are regularly washing their hands especially after going to the bathroom, before eating and after blowing their nose, coughing, or sneezing.
Let kids share their fears
It’s normal for kids to worry about themselves, friends and family, their school and community. Let them share their fears with you to seek reassurance. Ensure that they know they can always talk to you about what is scaring them or if they have questions or concerns. This might be the time to give more hugs and comfort to your kids.
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