We are all facing uncertain times due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The situation is constantly changing and is impacting on many different aspects of our lives.
We know that this will cause a lot of worry and stress for people. Having children and young people at home, often when people are trying to work themselves, adds another layer of pressure. As a result, it is even more important than usual that we consider not only our physical health but also our mental health.
Feeling concerned and anxious is entirely normal when we’re faced with such an unusual situation. Taking care of our mental health and well-being will allow us to be in a better position to support ourselves and others to cope with the challenges we face.
Talking to your children about coronavirus (Covid-19)
We may want to protect children from difficult topics but they are more likely to worry when kept in the dark. Most children and teenagers will be aware of what is happening but may not have all the facts they need to understand it.
Here are some tips to help you talk about Coronavirus with your child:
- Take time to talk and listen. Be clear that you are happy to answer any questions that they have. Be led by your child as they may not be that interested or want to know everything all at once. Try to answer any questions honestly but keep things in context, for example “Sadly, some people do die, but the vast majority of people will recover, and children seem to be only mildly affected”.
- Reassure them that their own risk is very low but that we all need to ‘do our bit’ to look after people who might be very unwell. Underline how helpful they are being by following the rules about hygiene and social distancing.
- Give positive messages about everything you are doing as a family to keep yourselves safe. Talk about all the work people around the world are doing to find treatments and a vaccine.
- Give children an opportunity to talk about their feelings. Our instinct might be to ‘make it all better’, but it is normal to feel scared, sad and angry in the face of what’s happening. Tell them that what is happening is not normal but that their feelings are.
- Keep explanations developmentally appropriate:
- Young children up to about age 7 will need very simple explanations that relate to their own experiences. Explain that, like other germs, coronavirus can spread between people and make them ill. But because coronavirus is a new germ that we don’t know everything about, we need to take more care and so things might be a bit different for a while.
- Older children will want to know more. They may have heard partial explanations and ‘filled in the gaps’ themselves with their own ideas, so check what they already think they know about it.
- Teenagers will have a similar capacity to understand what’s going on as adults. They will need calm, factual information and opportunities to talk through their worries and disappointments.