How can parents and carers manage the questions, fears and concerns from children about COVID-19?
We’ve put together some ideas, videos and a free downloadable resource for kids under 7 to help.
With the world in the grip of the COVID-19 response, parents and carers are wondering how best to manage the questions, fears and concerns from children. Even for adults it seems like a different world, we’re all dealing with fears about contagion, social norms are shifting, our regular actives are interrupted, institutions are closing, there is anxiety about food and resource security and uncertain work situations. As a result, children have varying levels of awareness and understanding of what’s going on.
To help you navigate this time, we’ve put together a useful guide on how to talk to your children about COVID-19 with a few useful resources.
How to Talk to Kids About the Coronavirus (a primer for parents)
Coronavirus Explained! (for kids)
Matter-of-fact, easily understood, child-friendly video from Dr Michelle Dickinson (aka Nanogirl) explaining COVID-19 using a plush toy, experiments and highlighting the benefits of handwashing.
Direct link: https://www.youtube.com/embed/OPsY-jLqaXM
Here are some other things you can do when talking to kids
Be factual in a child-friendly way and control uncertainty
Young children have the right to know what’s going on. Explain the facts in a child-friendly way (you can use the video above), telling them the evidence so far shows children are less likely to experience severe symptoms than older adults. Ask open questions and listen to how your child feels about the situation, don’t minimise the situation but help them process their feelings and reassure them there is a plan to keep them safe.
Here is a great activity resource for younger children #COVIBOOK– A printable book with activities for kids under 7.
Mindheart.co has created a free short printable book for kids under 7 to support and reassure children and ease kids’ anxiety regarding COVID-19. It’s a starter for families to discuss the full range of emotions arising from the current situation. The resources don’t seek to be a source of scientific information, but rather a tool based on fantasy, and you can print this material so children can draw on it. Remember that emotions are processed through repetitive play and stories read multiple times. Share COVIBOOK and help ease children’s anxiety all over the world.
Direct link: https://660919d3-b85b-43c3-a3ad-3de6a9d37099.filesusr.com/ugd/64c685_319c5acf38d34604b537ac9fae37fc80.pdf
Be mindful of a child’s media consumption
The pandemic response has overtaken the media and many of us have been glued to the 24/7 news cycle for updates. Coverage often features strong images of full-covering hazmat suits, people with masks and sick people in hospital – this can be terrifying for children.
Let’s also remember that many Australians were impacted by the horrific bushfires and the media was full of stories and images of people and animals suffering. Although these visuals have disappeared from the media cycle (but the impact is ongoing for those effected), as a community we’ve all been exposed to images and stories that trigger a fear response. These feelings can linger long after the immediate threat has been removed and children being particularly sensitive. The COVID-19 situation may validate the feeling that the ‘world isn’t a safe place’ anymore.
Turn off the TV when children are around or limit the amount of media they are exposed to.
If they do see these images, debrief them on what they’ve seen, explaining everyone is working together to stop this spreading, explain the facts and reassure them you are taking all precautions to keep them and other members of the family safe and they can help by practising good hygiene.
Take care of yourself
Ever wonder why the safety messages on a plane instruct that if oxygen masks are required that adults fit their own oxygen mask first before helping others, including their children? It’s because if the adult is attending to others without their mask fitted, they could lose consciousness and they aren’t capable of helping their children or others.
These are uncertain and stressful times impacting everything from usual daily activities, social engagements, work and work stability, finances and family dynamics, social movement, workplaces and family – as parents and carers, we can only help those we care about if we take care of personal own wellbeing.
The Guardian has published a useful article on how to manage anxiety and the COVID-19 response. It is written for those who are struggling, but there are useful suggestions in the article we can all implement: