By talking to children about coronavirus (COVID-19), we can provide them with some reassurance about a situation that is affecting different aspects of their daily life.
Young children are still trying to understand the world around them, so they tend to rely on their imaginations in situations where adequate information is lacking.
Adults in their lives can provide support by keeping the lines of communication open and giving them age-appropriate information.
A good place to start is by inviting them to tell you what they already know, they have likely heard adults around them and even children talking about coronavirus.
Let them know it is a subject they can talk to you about, so if they have a question or concern, they feel comfortable coming to you about it.
It’s important to be honest with children, so answer their questions in a way they can understand, which could be different for children of different ages.
If you feel like you don’t have the answers, make use of credible sources to find them such as the World Health Organisation and UNICEF. If they are old enough, they can even get involved in the research process.
Help them play an active role
We all like to feel we have some sense of control in our lives, even children. Empower them with the tools they can use to try to stay healthy.
Thorough hand washing can help protect us all. There are plenty of songs that last 20 seconds but the one all children probably already know is Happy Birthday. Get them to sing it through twice, while washing their hands with plenty of soap and water.
Also, remind them to use their elbow to catch their coughs and sneezes.
Like adults, children are coping with many changes to their daily lives. By maintaining routines where possible, we can help provide a sense of safety and predictability.
Regular bed-times, meal times, daily learning schedules and playtimes can provide some uniformity.
While care-givers may be spending more time at home with children, one on one, quality time is still important. Set aside time throughout the day to actively connect with them.
Also remember that different children may react to situations differently. Don’t minimise or avoid children’s concerns and show empathy and patience if new and challenging behaviours arise.
Self-care and assistance
Children are sensitive to the moods and behaviours of the adults around them, so adults need to make sure to create opportunities to take care of themselves as well.
Find ways to stay connected socially and restore well-being.
Thankfully we live in a technological world, so if assistance is required with parenting or mental health matters, there are still ways for us to connect and seek advice or help.
Adults can help children to focus on positive stories about the human responses to Coronavirus.
Sharing videos, stories and photos of people who are working to stop the outbreak and keep the community safe can provide a sense of comfort to children.