It goes without saying that most parents want to shield their children from the terrible things that, unfortunately, sometimes happen in the world. With that being said, kids are just as aware of the current coronavirus crisis as their parents are – when something is the top story on the news day after day, the children tend to notice.
Many parents might be wondering how to broach the subject of SARS-CoV-2 with their kids without sending them into a frenzy of fright and anxiety. Here are some tips.
Gauge what they know or think already
First off, parents will want to get an idea of what impression their kids already have of the coronavirus. In this regard, it’s good to ask open-ended questions like, “You might have noticed that things are a little different than they usually are – do you have any questions?”
Try to tailor your answers according to the child’s age, and keep them short. Young children can be especially frightened of the virus, as things are still real to them in a way that is different to older children, so you’ll want to give your kids accurate information, but not scare them at the same time. Explain how one contracts the coronavirus and why it is important that we keep our distance from other people, and wash our hands regularly to protect ourselves and to protect others.
Pay attention to how you speak to your kids
Your children will pick up on any underlying anxiety you have about the virus, and will adopt the same approach. If you are overly nervous, they’ll be nervous, too, so it’s better to set their minds at ease. Your child might be worried that they or people they love could die of the virus. Try to calmly explain that there is a difference between a normal case of the flu and coronavirus, and that not everyone that contracts the virus will die from it.
If they are worried about your health or the health of their grandparents, explain that older people can be more at risk, but that this is why everyone is staying at home and washing their hands often.
Take their feelings into account
Ask your children how they feel about the coronavirus and validate their feelings. If they say they are scared of getting sick, or angry that they can’t visit their friends, say that you understand their fear and frustration, but that you are taking all these precautions to keep the whole family safe and healthy.
Reinforce the importance of good hygiene
Maintaining good hygiene isn’t only important when a virus is going around, and this is a great time to explain exactly why your children should always try to keep their hands clean. Demonstrate the correct way to wash their hands, and make it fun by singing their favourite song while doing so. Explain that we should always cough or sneeze into our elbow, and that we should discard any used tissues or toilet paper in the rubbish bin or toilet immediately after use.
Explain to your children that we cannot control everything in the world, but that we do have the power to maintain a hygienic lifestyle, and that this can go a long way in keeping us healthy, both during and after the coronavirus outbreak.
Most of all, try to instil the idea in your children that this will not last forever. The pandemic will eventually pass, but while it is still around, it is important that we follow the guidelines to keep ourselves and others safe.